Caleb Ewan is aiming to start his first full season with Australian WorldTour team Orica-GreenEdge by claiming several wins on home soil over the next two months. The 20-year-old is aiming for a successful return to the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic next week before turning his attention to winning a maiden national criterium title in Ballarat on January 8.
Ewan will sit out the Tour Down Under but returns to racing in February at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Jayco Herald Sun Tour. A debut appearance at the Tour de Langkawi in March is to follow with Ewan to be a protected rider for the flat sprint friendly stages. "They are three races that Caleb is capable of getting wins in," sport director Matt White told Cyclingnews.
Ewan's early season racing program is all about easing the neo-pro into 2015 rather than dropping him straight into the deep end and seeing his confidence hit rock bottom as a result.
"Next year I am hoping to win some stuff, the team isn't putting me in the hardest races of the year," Ewan told Cyclingnews. "I'll have a good mix of some harder races and some easier races that I can go well in."
First up for Ewan is the 'Bay Crits' where the team is hoping to claim its first wins of a busy summer of Australian cycling via the youngest ever winner of the criterium series.
"I expect all of the guys to be going very well actually," sports director Matt Wilson said in a team press release. "Caleb is targeting early season races so he should be in great form. It's a good preparation race for the summer. What it does is give these guys a bit of extra racing heading into a full January program so they get time to do some intensity, get the race legs on and then move onto the Nationals, Tour Down Under and the races to follow."
In his last year as an U23, Ewan claimed the national road race and criterium titles back in January. In 2015, the team will give Ewan the freedom to add an elite title to his palmarès and further boost his confidence before he switches to a support role for the road race.
"Steele von Hoff is going really well and he won it last year. Shannon Johnson and Neil van der Ploeg will be among the other key riders to watch," Ewan said of his rivals for the criterium title. "So there are a few good guys out there, and a lot of the teams like Avanti and Drapac who will both be there trying to win that race.
"It'll be hard competing against these teams if I'm by myself. But yeah, I'll be aiming for the criterium next month."
Ewan's performances at the nationals earned him a start at the Tour Down Under with the UniSA team this year with his best result a third place in the People's Choice Classic behind Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel. A return to the WorldTour race looks unlikely for 2015 with the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Sun Tour seen as better alternatives for Ewan to stand atop the podium.
"I think the course is hard but then it depends on how it's raced,' Ewan said of the new UCI 1.1 race. "It's going to be one of the first races of the year for me so I'll be pretty motivated and I should be in pretty good form by then as well."
With a target of 'five of six' wins for 2015, Ewan explained that if he can start the season in a winning fashion, it will bode well for the year ahead which is likely to feature around 60 race days on numerous continents.
"They are all high level races but they are really good stepping stones for me to realistically have a go at winning and that's what I need for the first part of the year," he said of the Australian races. "I need to build up the confidence and then slowly take it to higher level races, instead of the team taking me to a really hard race straight away and smashing my confidence."