Caleb Ewan is back, winner of stage 1 in the Tour of Turkey exactly one month after he pulled out of Tirreno-Adriatico and then missed out on his big goal for the first part of the 2022 season, Milan-San Remo. The Australian has quickly pushed that disappointment to one side, instead turning his sights on a reset that will set him up for the Giro d’Italia, starting in Budapest on May 6.
“To be honest, I didn’t think I’d win straight away, especially with the sprinters here because these guys have come from a lot of racing," Ewan said in Kusadasi after beating Jasper Philipsen and Kaden Groves in a bunch gallop on stage 1.
“They’ve gone through their goals for the early part of the season with the Classics and everything and they come straight here… so I knew that they would be in good form and I was still a bit unsure about my form. But as the stage went on, I started to feel better and better.
"On the climb, I was a little bit uncomfortable but not too bad and in the end I think I had good legs.”
It was a 4km long climb with an average gradient of 8 per cent to the summit, which was located at 29km to go on the first stage of the eight-stage race.
“You never know how you’re gonna feel on a tough climb like that," Ewan continued. “It wasn’t too long but there were a lot of steep ramps in it. I think we were a little bit lucky that there was a bit of a headwind on the climb so they didn’t go up as quick as they possibly could have, but I hung on.
However, some of the Lotto Soudal lead out team did get left behind.
“We lost a few guys on the climb," said Ewan. "For a long time it was just Jasper [De Buyst], my lead out man and Harm [Vanhoucke], who we have for GC, so we had to play it pretty smart but in the end [Michael] Schwarzmann came back, he did a really good job up the climb. That set Jasper up for the downhill part into the lead-out.
"I was a little worried that we were too far in the front at the end. I was thinking to come from behind maybe because we had the information that there was going to be maybe a headwind in the finish but when I saw how technical the last kilometre was, I was happy I was at the front. When I started my sprint I felt really good.”
This year’s fourth win – after stage 1 of the Saudi Tour, Stage 1 of the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var and Stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico – came as a reset for the Australian after illness struck right before Milan-San Remo.
“When I did my last recon of the Cipressa and Poggio”, he recalled, “I felt really good but then that night, I don’t know what happened but I started to feel like nauseous and from then for about almost one week, I was completely… just vomiting and going to the toilet a lot.
"In the end I lost almost five kilos. I didn’t train for eight or nine days. I started riding again in the last two weeks."
It was difficult timing given it meant missing a key season goal but the refocus toward other goals couldn't have had a better beginning.
“Compared to what I experienced in March, it definitely feels good to be racing under the sun in Turkey, especially after the last two years I didn’t get the chance to go back to Australia. I’ve done like the full winter in Europe.
"I actually love racing in the heat ... It’s good to start racing in the warm weather again. I hope the Giro is going to be warm.”
On his third participation to the Tour of Turkey in which he won two stages in 2019, he wears the turquoise jersey for the first time.
“I have the same goal for the Tour of Turkey as I always do, which is to win as much as I possibly can," he said.
“It’s a great start. I have to keep going. It’s an important race for me for the preparation for the Giro. It’s a really good race for the sprinters. If you climb well, it means seven opportunities for the sprinters in eight days. There’s one hilltop finish that obviously don’t suit the sprinters but the rest of the stages, I believe they suit me.”
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