Tour Down Under: Ewan set for first real test in Lotto colours

Australian sprinter to experiment with new lead-out train

A win is a win, as the saying goes, but despite twice raising his arms in victory at the recent Bay Crits, sprinter Caleb Ewan is well aware that his 2019 season really starts at the Tour Down Under.

The Australian fastman switched teams from Mitchelton-Scott to Lotto Soudal over the winter, and although the rider he replaced at Lotto – Andre Greipel – is not competing at the Tour Down Under this year, Ewan is under no illusions that he will be one of the main focuses at the first WorldTour race of the season.

"I'm really looking forward to getting the season under way," he told Cyclingnews before a training ride in Adelaide on Wednesday. 

"Obviously we've done a few races already and my form has been pretty good, but I'm really looking forward to racing with the full team. Everyone here is going well. Some riders are still a bit jet-lagged, but by the time the race comes around, they'll be in good condition."

Ewan won two out of the three races at the Bay Crits earlier in January, but the 24-year-old fully understands that the competition in Adelaide will be far fiercer. Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) has arrived with a full lead-out train, while Peter Sagan – despite playing down his chances – is never far from the action in bunch sprints.

There are a number of other WorldTour sprinters in attendance this year, but the home crowd and fans outside of the Australian bubble will be expecting Ewan to add to his tally of seven stage wins.

"The wins at the Bay Crits gave me a bit of confidence and showed where my form is. I know it was a small race, but it was good to get that feeling back – that winning feeling – and I've felt strong in the races so far. At Nationals, as I've said before, the course only suits me if there's a headwind and the racing is negative. It wasn't like that this year, so it was too hard for a sprinter. Me getting around that course was hard enough."

The Tour Down Under will see Ewan race in new colours, but his transition from Mitchelton to Lotto Soudal should be eased by the fact that he will be working with both riders he's relied upon in the past and remnants of Greipel's old train.

Ewan brought Roger Kluge with him from Mitchelton, while Lotto also signed Adam Blythe, who raced with Ewan for a single season on the Australian team in 2015.

"I'm always motivated when I come here, but I'm also intrigued as to how it will go. The guys here are in really good shape, which we saw at our training camp a few weeks ago. I'm looking forward to getting the ball rolling with them," he said.

Ewan spent part of December at Lotto-Soudal's training camp in Mallorca, Spain, where he and his teammates could work on their lead-out formation and sprint training. That practice will certainly come in handy over the coming days, but, win or lose at the Tour Down Under, the Australian will learn far more from real-time race practice.

"It's always hard to get that feeling in training, but the guys here are so experienced, and have either worked with me before or have worked with Andre before, so it's a really good bunch of experience.

"From what I can understand, Andre was more of a guy who wanted to take the lead-outs from the front and stay out of trouble. That was pretty hard for the team to do, and I'm probably more of a guy who can wait in the bunch more and can come [through] at the last minute. That's something that we can work through by racing."

Blythe is likely to be Ewan's final lead-out man at the start of the race, with Kluge used as his second-last man.

"It will change depending on the courses, I think. At the moment, it will be Blythe in front of me and then Roger before him. Maybe the others will switch around a bit, but this is a race where were we can play around with that," he said.

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