Ewan targeting early Australian races to kickstart 2018 season

Orica-Scott sprinter Caleb Ewan is hoping success in Australia will kickstart his 2018 season, saying he'd like to leave his home country at the end of January with a few wins already in his pocket.

The 23-year-old speedster will start his season at the Australian Cycling Road National Championships during the first week of January, then he'll face WorldTour competition at the Tour Down Under and then finish his opening Australian swing at Race Melbourne.

Ewan won the criterium title last year at the Australian championships, and he's hoping to repeat that title while adding another on the road.

“I’m definitely going into the criterium to try to defend my title," he said in a team press release. "We should have a really good team there, so I think we have a pretty good chance."

Although Ewan is the hands-down favourite to repeat in the criterium, the road race is a different challenge with a few hills to overcome before the finish. Ewan abandoned the race last year after Jack Bobridge went on a successful solo flyer that blew apart the race, which saw only 15 riders finish.

“For the road race, we have a fair few options," Ewan said. "For me, I’m hoping the race is a little bit easier, with a headwind up the climb to slow the race down going up the hill so I can get to the finish for some sort of sprint. But as a team we have options for every race scenario.”

Ewan would obviously like to be the option that the team plays in the finale, and the chance to wear the green-and-gold jersey in WorldTour races is a big carrot for the young sprinter.

“Wearing the green and gold at any point is really an honour," he said. "We don’t do a lot of crits, so I haven’t been able to wear the green and gold a lot, so it would really be a dream to wear it on the road.”

If Ewan finds success in the nationals road race, his first chance to wear the jersey will come at the Tour Down Under, here he'll face sprinters like Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), the Tour Down Under stage win record holder with 16.

Ewan has won the People’s Choice Classic, the criterium ahead of the tour, in both 2016 and 2017, and he'd no doubt to start his week on the podium's top step again. In just two appearances at the Tour Down Under with Orica-Scott, he's taken six stage wins, including four in 2017 alone. Greipel's presence in the race for the first time since 2014 will be an extra challenge, but Ewan believes he'll be able to add to his total when the race leaves Adelaide on January 16.

“Obviously, I’d like to repeat what I did last year, but it’s going to be hard to win four stages and the People’s Choice again,” he said. “There’s probably only three stages that really suit sprinters in the 2018 Tour Down Under, and then there may be a fourth depending on how it is raced. Looking at the profiles, the first two stages and last stage suit me best, and then maybe the third stage if it is a more negative race.

“This year, the sprint field is a lot better than it’s been in the past two years, so it’s definitely going to be challenging,” he said. “The Tour Down Under is one of the biggest races in Australia, and being Australian, racing there, I’m very motivated to do well in my home race.”

Ewan will end his early Australian season at Race Melbourne on January 25. He was fifth in the race in 2017.

“I’d love to leave Australia on a high and try to win Race Melbourne," he said. "It’s definitely one of my big goals for the start of the season. It’s a really fast race, obviously there’s no hills and it’s pan flat, but also because of the distance.

“Race Melbourne has a lot of potential. It’s purely targeted to the sprinters and should continue to attract some big names. It’s right in the centre of the city and the twilight timing in 2018 should add another great atmosphere lift.”


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