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Ewan says 'leadership is not easy' as he sweeps up second Giro d'Italia stage

Foto Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse
14 maggio 2021 Italia
Sport Ciclismo
Giro d'Italia 2021 - edizione 104 - Tappa 7 - Da Notaresco a Termoli (km 181)
Nella foto:
Photo Fabio Ferrar/LaPresse
May 14, 2021 Italy
Sport Cycling
Giro d'Italia 2021 - 104th edition - Stage 7 - from Notaresco to Termoli
In the pic:
Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) celebrates his second stage win at the Giro d'Italia in Termoli (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Even though Caleb Ewan is winning Giro d'Italia sprints with impressive superiority right now, the Lotto Soudal leader says that being a leader in his team is not a role that sits easily with him.

The 26-year-old Australian netted the eleventh Grand Tour stage win of his career on Friday with a devastating sprint in Termoli that brought his 2021 Giro d'Italia tally to two victories in the space of three days as well as the points jersey lead.

But as he is set on racing the Tour de France, Ewan admitted freely that it would not be practical for him to complete the Giro d'Italia, or as he put it, "my legs would be dying for the next few months."

Then there is the Vuelta a España, too, to consider, with Ewan keen to gain a second stage in the race where he made his Grand Tour debut back in 2015, and took his first stage almost immediately afterwards.

For all that he is one of the world's top sprinters, Ewan admitted on Friday that being a leader is "not something that comes really natural for me, it's something I've had to work on since I turned pro."

"I really got thrown into the deep end very early on, because I had to start winning races straight away so I didn't have a mentor or anything to help me become a leader and I had to figure it out for myself."

For all he says leadership is not his strongest point, Ewan's position as top sprinter in the 2021 Giro d'Italia seemed more clearly established than ever on Friday as he powered across the finish line in Termoli ahead of his rivals. But he said that it had not been a straightforward sprint by any stretch of the imagination.

"It was really hard. Harder than I expected. I felt like there was a real sprint from that climb with 1.5 kilometres to go to the finish, full gas all the way," he reflected.

Although his double victory and tenth place in the opening bunch sprint on stage two have now propelled him into the maglia ciclamina lead, 23 points ahead of stage 2 winner Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix), Ewan said it was all but impossible he would remain in the Giro d'Italia until the final stage in Milan.

"My goal remains the same for this year, and I need to do what's best in preparation for the Tour. Unfortunately, sprinters legs don't recover in the same way that any other riders do, and if I finished the Giro now I would be dying for the next few months.

"This year so far has been very tough with the weather and a lot of guys legs are hurting a lot. I have to make sure I don't go so deep because if you do, it's hard to start again in the next Tour."

When Ewan began winning Giro stages back in 2017, a lot was made of his exceptionally aerodynamic position, but the Australian said on Friday that he is no longer exploiting that advantage so much because he has changed his approach in the sprints.

"To start with I trained it a lot, but if I look at the two sprints I've done here, I'm not sprinting so aerodynamically as I used to," he explained. "Instead, I've only been getting out late to do my sprint, so I've been more focussed on getting up to speed fast.

"When I use the aero position, I start my sprints earlier, and it was a way of helping me hold the speed. A day like today, when the sprint wasn't so fast, it was all about emptying my legs as quickly as possible."

The end result though, continues to be the same, and Ewan is now looking harder and harder at becoming only the fourth rider in history to take stages in all three Grand Tours in a single year.

"I think it'd be nice, not many people have done it before, I'd be the first non-European to do it and as cycling is a global sport, if I can go down in history because of that, I'd love to leave some sort of mark in cycling." he said on Friday.

"It's a tough thing to do now, a lot of guys are doing great things on the bike, but it's going well so far.

"However, there are another tough two Grand Tours coming up, and managing how I race them after this is going to be difficult. So it's a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it."

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.