At the Tour Down Under last month, Caleb Ewan gave up two wins when in prime position for victory. Reunited with lead-out man Luka Mezgec at the Clasica de Almeria, Mitchelton-Scott's sprinter made no such mistake to start his European campaign for 2018 in winning style.
The victory is Ewan's first one-day win since the 2016 Cyclassics Hamburg. With the 23-year-old to make his Tour de France debut in July, the victory is also an important confidence boost as he explained.
"It's really good to hit the ground running in my first European race and it was good to have the full lead-out squad behind me today. We were all a bit lost after getting caught behind a crash but once we all got back together and started the lead-out, no-one came round us and I am happy I was able to finish it off," said Ewan who unleashed his familiar low sprinting position to secure the win.
"I haven't raced with these lead-out guys since the Tour of Britain so that’s a fair chunk of time away. It is good to get the confidence back in working together and that nothing has really changed, that is what we needed going into these next big races."
Although Ewan was unable to match his four Tour Down Under stage wins from 2017 this summer, he won the challenging finale into Stirling and also added another national criterium title to his palmares. His 11-day race campaign Down Under concluding with the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race criterium on January 25. In Europe, Ewan has been training for his early season goals, including Milan-San Remo, and revealed that despite tired legs, he had enough in the tank when it mattered in the final.
"I felt pretty tired during the day because we did five hours training yesterday, so I didn't feel great but in the final when the adrenalin kicks in I felt alright and overall it was a good day," he added.
For Mitchelton-Scott sports director Matt White, the result and performance was pleasing considering it was the first outing of Ewan's 'regular' sprint train for the season.
"Today was a really good practice for the guys, Roger Kluge, Mezgec and Bauer will all be with racing together with Caleb in Abu Dhabi. It is the first time the quartet has worked together so we are starting to go through the motions now getting ready for the races coming up," said White, adding praise for the full team effort to get the win.
"It has also been a big weekend for these guys, when you look at the work Kreuziger, Juul-Jensen and Trentin have done these past two days it has been 400kilometres or more of racing and it is only going to benefit them and help them get to top condition."
Ewan is next in action later this month at the Abu Dhabi Tour where he won the final stage of the race last year. With his sprint train also heading to the Persian Gulf, the challenge is on to add a third continent to his early-season winning streak in 2018.