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Ewan looks to transform pressure into success in Giro d'Italia sprints

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Caleb Ewan thinks he's won it

Caleb Ewan thinks he's won it (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images Sport)
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Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal)

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Caleb Ewan and Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal)

Caleb Ewan and Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal)

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Caleb Ewan admits he feels under pressure to perform at his first Grand Tour with Lotto Soudal, but believes there are five or six sprint opportunities at the 2019 Giro d'Italia.

The 24-year-old Australian left Mitchelton-Scott for Lotto Soudal for the 2019 season. His sprint ambitions always had to fit with the Australian team's general classification hopes, but now he has far more of the Lotto Soudal team at his service. The Belgian team also has new Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts, breakaway specialist Thomas De Gendt and climber Jelle Vanendaert in their eight-rider roster, but the goal is to win stages with Ewan. Campenaerts does not consider himself a contender for Saturday's opening hilly time trial, but De Gendt has identified the hilly stages where he hopes to go on the attack.

On the flatter stages, Ewan will go up against Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), UAE Team Emirates' Fernando Gaviria and a host of other fast finishers at the Giro d'Italia. Ewan is also set to target the Tour de France sprints, and so is unlikely to ride through the Giro's mountain stages in an effort to reach the finish in Verona.

Sunday's opening road race stage to Fucecchio is perhaps too hilly, and is on narrow Tuscan roads, but Ewan is eyeing the finishes in Orbetello, Frascati, Terracina, Pesaro, Modena and Novi Ligure.

"I think we've got a super-strong team," Ewan said at the team's pre-race press conference, seemingly unafraid to take on the power of Deceuninck-QuickStep in the sprints.

"We always try to be on the front foot and do our own race. You start stuffing it up, following others. We can compete against the best if we do our own thing; it's easier to control. We'll see how it goes, and then reassess sprint by sprint."

Pressure on Lotto Soudal lead-out train

The return of lead-out man Jasper De Buyst will bolster the Lotto Soudal sprint train, with loyal lieutenant Roger Kluge also playing a key role in the expected hectic finishes of the first half of the Giro.

"I think my best results have been on uphill finishes so far this season, but I still think I can get results on flat finishes, too. Whatever the finish, I'm going to be going for them 100 per cent," Ewan explained.

"I feel maybe a little bit more pressure this year with Lotto Soudal because with Mitchelton we had a GC rider, so there was a GC rider to fall back on. But I don't mind the extra pressure. I prefer to have that and have a full team supporting me instead of half a team.

"We'll have some pressure on the sprint stages, but there are lots of other good sprinters here, so we're not the only ones. The pressure and the workload will be shared," he continued.

"I think my integration into the team so far has been good. I've been lacking a good last man. I was supposed to start with Jasper in Paris-Nice, but then he was out for six weeks and not able to do lead-outs in Turkey. I hope we can do some better lead-outs, even though it takes time for a sprinter and his last man to work well together. I'm sure we'll bond together quickly."