Caleb Ewan's winning streak on the opening stage of the Tour Down Under ended in disappointment, with Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) taking victory to extend his career stage win count at the race to 17.
Ewan won in Lyndoch in 2016 and 2017 and this was his first defeat when contesting a Tour Down Under sprint. All six of his wins at the race have come in the absence of Greipel.
Hitting out in Lyndoch after rounding the final corner on the wheel of Bora-hansgrohe's Rudiger Selig, rather than Mitchelton-Scott leadout man Daryl Impey, Ewan faded on the left-hand side of the road as Greipel rocketed up the middle.
Collecting the white jersey for best young rider before heading to the mixed zone, the Australian had time to reflect and compose himself before fronting up the press.
"To be honest, I think he was just better in the closing stages," Ewan said of Greipel. "Maybe in hindsight, I went a little too early again but usually I can hold my sprint for that long. If I am going to be competitive in the bigger races then I will need to be able to hold my sprint for that long. I think he just had the better legs today and he popped around me at the last minute. It was good a ride by him."
The dominant Tour Down Under sprinter in the last two editions of the race, Ewan has returned to Adelaide for more success but he does so with the aim of testing himself against the top sprinters in the peloton ahead of his Tour de France debut in July. For the 23-year-old, holding his sprint for as long as possible against the likes of Greipel, an 11-time Tour stage winner, is his plan of attack.
"I don't think I am too keen. It is something I want to train myself to be able to do because if I can only sprint for 150 metres then I run into the risk of always being boxed in," he said of going too early. "I think it is something I will keep doing and I maybe just need to train to get better.
"[I need to] be a little more patient. I am really happy with how the team rode today. They did a perfect lead-out and at the end of the day it was my fault that I couldn't hold on in the end."
Along with Greipel, the sprint field includes the likes of world champion Peter Sagan and Olympic gold medallist Elia Viviani, backed by his new team Quick-Step Floors. It is a level of class that Ewan welcomes and hopes can help him take his sprinting to another level, starting Thursday into Victor Harbor - a finish where both Ewan and Greipel have previously enjoyed success.
"Like I have said before, the sprint field here is better than it has been in the last few years. I am happy for it to be like that because I am going to be racing these guys in some of the more serious races coming up," Ewan said.
"It is good to get a feel for how they sprint. I will be analysing these sprints and seeing where their weaknesses may be and I can improve against them like that."
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