Whether he was getting low to get aero or to avoid the heat that sparked the activation of the UCI Extreme Weather Protocol, Caleb Ewan's sprinting prowess in 2017 continued as he claimed victory number four for the season on the opening stage of the Tour Down Under.
Ewan has now matched his 2016 feats by winning the People's Choice Classic and stage 1 of the Tour Down Under. He also took the lead in the overall classification, points, and young rider classifications.
"It was a lot of pressure coming back here, same finish as last year, to do the same thing and win. It is such a relief and will put the whole team on a high and hopefully we can do something like last year," a relaxed Ewan said after collecting his new wardrobe of jerseys on the podium.
With high temperatures, conditions were far from ideal for racing but with just a one-man breakaway, Astana's Laurens De Vresse, Ewan suggested, “it is not as bad as it could have been."
Ready for domestique on day two to Paracombe
Orica-Scott will lap up Ewan's third career Tour Down Under win tonight but it is the general classification the Australian team is really chasing. In Esteban Chaves and four-time winner Simon Gerrans, the squad has two bona fide contenders and will back both to the hilt.
While Chaves was hardly spotted touching the wind today as he celebrated his 27th birthday, Gerrans was active at the intermediate sprint points as he chased the crucial time bonuses. Ewan explained it was a tactic the team had discussed pre-stage and one they will continue to roll out across the week.
"We said that if there was only one or two guys going up the road we would try to get the one or two seconds on the road. If we look back at recent years, it has always come down to a couple of seconds so all those bonus seconds are crucial in the end," Ewan explained.
Ewan's stint in the race leader's ochre jersey is set to be short with his sprinting skills not suited to the Paracombe climb finale. Having enjoyed full backing from his teammates and repaid their hard work Tuesday, Ewan will turn domestique for Wednesday's 'queen stage'.
"With the way the team is now with our dual ambitions and we have such strong contenders when there is not a sprint stage I will have to go into a support role," added Ewan, who is also targeting further success on stages three, four and six. "I will be happy to do that tomorrow because it is easy to help when you have two guys who can go for the overall and win it."
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