Caleb Ewan got his first full season at Orica-GreenEdge off to the best possible start by landing victory in the opening criterium of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic series in Geelong on Friday.
The Australian fast man could well have been tempted to rely solely on his sprint to claim the win but instead he showed confidence that belied his 20 years when he latched onto a dangerous move by Greg Henderson midway through the hour-long race.
“I just got in the right move,” Ewan said, according to his team website. “He has done that before here, raced like that and won, so I knew when he went that it could be the race so I had to jump on it straight away.”
The pair didn’t quite lap the remainder of the peloton but their lead was enough for the commissaires to have those left behind sprint for third place three laps ahead of the official finish.
Ewan was the overwhelming favourite in the two-up sprint for the win and he comfortably came around the 38-year-old Henderson in the finishing straight to take the spoils.
“I thought he was going to sit of my for the full last lap but he came through and wanted to lead it out and that worked perfectly for me,” Ewan said. “I was glad the peloton were pulled out early. I didn’t want to get involved with them because it upsets everything and I don’t think that would be fair for either of us.”
Ewan spent the second part of the 2014 season as a stagiaire at GreenEdge before claiming a silver medal in the under-23 road race at the Worlds in Ponferrada. The Australian carries considerable expectation into WorldTour level after an amateur career replete with successes at home and abroad.
In 2013, for instance, he claimed two stages and third overall at the Tour de l’Avenir, having won the overall classification of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic that January.
“There is a lot of pressure on me coming back to these crits and it’s always a lot of pressure lifted off my shoulders when I win here,” Ewan said.
GreenEdge directeur sportif Matt Wilson admitted that he had initial misgivings about Ewan’s decision to go up the road early but he paid tribute to his rider’s instincts in tracking the Henderson move. “I thought it was a bit too soon being one of the fastest guys in the field. But clearly he felt strong and he was actually covering Henderson, which was a good move,” he said.
Ewan confirmed that he will line up in all four of the Bay Crits in a bid to seal the overall classification for the second time. Orica-GreenEdge have yet to confirm their roster for the Tour Down Under later this month but former rider Robbie McEwen voiced his support for fielding Ewan in the squad, writing on Twitter: “Tonight's Bay Series stage is why i reckon @CalebEwan should ride @tourdownunder - it's for riders in early season form #dontwasteit.”