A win is a win, as they say, and despite the circumstances that led to Caleb Ewan (Orica-BikeExchange) winning the Cyclassic Hamburg, the Australian is brimming with confidence after a long spell without a victory.
The 22-year-old sprinter went almost seven months without a win between the end of January and late August and, despite several second and third places in the Giro d'Italia, Tour of Yorkshire and Tour de Pologne, Hamburg was his first taste of success outside of Australia since last year's Vuelta a España.
With an important block of racing ahead and the World Championships in Qatar on the distant horizon, Ewan is looking to build on his success in Germany at the Tour of Britain.
"Hamburg was the first of a big block that I've got coming up. There's Tour of Britain now and then Eneco, maybe Paris-Tours and then Worlds. The main thing going into this block is having confidence. After not winning for a while the confidence gets battered a little and to be a sprinter the main thing that you need is confidence. That will help me a lot going into the next few races," Ewan tells Cyclingnews on the eve of the Tour of Britain.
Despite his young age, Ewan is no stranger to racing in the United Kingdom. He was part of the Australian team at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and raced the Tour of Yorkshire earlier this season. That experience will be crucial if he is to beat the likes of Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel in the sprint stages this week. Not being a favourite suits Ewan, however, and he admits that the role of the underdog is one that he enjoys.
"It's going to be super tough," he says of the week ahead.
"The field of sprinters here is almost as good as it gets, bar a few guys. It's definitely not going to be easy but to be honest, when I come to a race like this where there’s such high quality sprinters, I feel less pressure than if there's no Cavendish's or Greipels', or those guys.
"Everyone expects you to do well but no one really expects you to beat them. Then if you beat them, it's great. If those guys aren't there and you go into a race as the best sprinter, and you don't win...then it's 'why didn't you win?'"
Hamburg lifts the pressure
If Ewan is to beat the more experienced sprinters at the Tour of Britain he will have to be at his very best. In Hamburg he was awarded the win only after Nacer Bouhanni was adjudged to have deviated from his sprinting line. The Frenchman was relegated to 27th place, with Ewan moving onto the top step of the podium and celebrating what he describes as the biggest win of his career.
The ramifications of Hamburg were huge. Not only had Ewan ended his dry spell but he had also proved to the national team coach Bradley McGee that he could sprint at the end of a long one-day race – a key factor in McGee's selection for the World Championships later this year.
"To be honest I'd talked to the national coach and he said before the race that I needed to prove that I could sprint at the end of a proper one-day race. So that was my main thing. I didn't have in mind that I was going for the win. I just wanted to show that I could still be there," Ewan says.
"It was a massive win for me. Up until now I hadn't really won any big one-day races so that was a big moment for me. I think it was good to prove to myself and other people in the team that I can do well in the hard one-day races."
The pressure, he says, had been a factor but Orica have consistently demonstrated a knack for harnessing and developing young talent. Michael Matthews, the Yates brothers, Esteban Chaves and Ewan are – despite their age – considered to be among the best in the world. And for Ewan, part of the bigger picture and explanation for his time without a win comes down to the fact that his racing programme has become that much harder. Races such as the Giro d'Italia, Tirreno Adriatico and Poland were not even on his programme last year and were a clear step up from Langkawi and the Tour of Korea.
"For my season, I hadn't won anything in Europe up until that moment in Hamburg so obviously when you get to that point in the year and you've not won anything in Europe the pressure is on to get results. That win was probably the biggest win of my career so far," said Ewan.
"I have to say, a lot of the pressure was from myself. The team weren't putting any extra pressure on me and I think that they were pretty happy with my year. I've not won as many races as last year but I'm also riding a lot harder races now. They're happy with how I've stepped up."
Now, with his tail up, and a major win under his belt, Ewan is looking to kick on and prove that Hamburg was just the start to a strong second half of the season.
The Tour of Britain starts Sunday September 4. Cyclingnews will have live coverage of each and every stage.
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