In 2014 a 19-year-old Caleb Ewan made his debut at the Tour Down Under with the UniSA-Australia wildcard team in what was his first taste of WorldTour level racing. Ewan's best result was third in the People's Choice Classic and he admitted to struggling through the race. Fast forward to 2016 and the now 21-year-old in his second season with Orica-GreenEdge has left his mark on the race, winning all three sprint finished he contested on stages 1 and 6 and the the Down Under Criterium classic. He has shown he will be a real contender in the WorldTour sprints during the 2016 season.
"I got a little bit swamped on the last lap coming through the finish with the bell then coming back down the hill past the finish line on the way back I had to dive-bomb into that last corner which was a bit sketchy. I locked up a few times but I got up to the place I wanted to be and once I was there I was fine. A few of my teammates came back up to help and did a great job to put me on the wheel I needed to be on and from then on I was feeling alright," Ewan explained after winning stage 6 by several bike lengths after sprinting tucked low over his bars.
"I was actually hoping to win four stages, I was hoping to get over victor Harbor but obviously that stage turned out to be a lot harder than expected. I was a bit disappointed I couldn’t get over the hill but that was nothing I could really do, they went super hard up there and obviously a race that Simon wins in the end is probably a bit too hard for me anyway. Luckily he won that and saved me from the disappointment."
The Adelaide stage win was Ewan's seventh success of the season so far, continuing his dominance of sprints in the Australian summer. Asked if he would prefer to have been sprinting against the likes of Marcel Kittel or Andre Greipel, Ewan said the parcours had been a deciding factor in the fast men of the peloton starting their seasons elsewhere.
"It would be nice if they are all here, I think the way the race is going, it’s a bit too hard. We saw only really two sprint stages so at the moment its not really worthwhile for some of the bigger sprinters to come out here an I think maybe next year and in year to come should probably have a few more sprint stages. Even the sprint stages here, Victor Harbor should have been a sprint but they put a hill right near the end."
Orica-GreenEdge came into the Tour Down Under with the dual ambition of winning the GC and stages with Ewan. Succeeding in its goals to make it the most successful Tour Down Under yet, the team also saw the resurgence of Gerrans after his injury interrupted 2015 season and Ewan explained the two stage wins and a fourth ochre jersey are the perfect platform for his teammate to start the season.
"He had a pretty hard year by his standards so I think for him to come here and win they way he did, the biggest margin he’s won by, I think will give him so much confidence for the year ahead. I think for any cyclist confidence at the start of the year is so important and makes for such a good year. When you start on the back foot, sometimes you can never really get back on top of it. I think last year it was like that, he started on the back foot and never got on top of it again. I am so happy for him that he’s back on top."
After celebrating with his Orica-GreenEdge teammates, Ewan is expected to ride the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Australia on January 31, before heading to Europe to take on the other WorldTour sprinters.