After claiming his eighth win of the season so far with a photo finish on stage 1 of the Tour of Britain, Caleb Ewan has hailed 2017 as his best season yet. The Orica-Scott man edged out Dimension Data's versatile Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen on a technical run-in, taking the first leader's jersey of the race.
But while he has yet to reach his 2015 win total of eleven, the Australian cited the quality vs quantity argument when evaluating his palmares during the post-race press conference.
"I think as far as WorldTour wins go it's definitely my best year," he said. "My first year pro was the year I got my most wins, but then I only had one WorldTour win [stage 5 of the Vuelta a España].
"So maybe they were smaller races then, but as far as the quality of results go this will be my best year so far."
Perusing the results sheets bears out this notion, with six of Ewan's 2015 wins coming from the 2.1 ranked races the Herald Sun Tour and the Tour of Korea. By contrast, he has six in the WorldTour this season, including four at the Tour Down Under and one apiece at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de Pologne.
After something of a blip in his progress in a 2016 season that saw Ewan wait until August for his first European victory, this year has seen him return to form, or at least the results to show for it.
Taking into account the riders he has outpaced this year, there's also been a step-up in reputation. At the Giro he pipped André Greipel and Fernando Gaviria to the line on the technical finish in Alberobello, while Sunday's victory in Kelso saw him get the better of Boasson Hagen and Gaviria, as well as Alexander Kristoff and the in-form Elia Viviani.
"Eddy's in good form, so I think he's really going for the World Championships," Ewan said. "With that coming up I think there's a few guys here that are in really good condition."
The World Championships, to be held in Bergen in Norway, aren't on Ewan's radar this year though. After the relative failure in Doha last October which saw leadership duties split between Ewan (DNF) and Michael Matthews (4th), he confirmed that Australia will be putting their weight behind Matthews in late September.
"At the moment no [it's not a goal], because the national team really want to go to the Worlds with one leader," he said. "And Michael Matthews suits that course a little bit better than I do.
"He's in really good form as well, so I think that it's only fair for them to back him 100 per cent instead of the last few years when they've split the team in half, and it's not really been fair on anyone. So it'll be good to see the whole team back him and see what he can do as well."
Despite this, there could yet be more to come from Ewan in 2017. This year's edition of the Tour of Britain has been designed with the sprinters aiming for the rainbow jersey in Bergen in mind, so as many as four of the remaining seven stages could end up with sprint finishes. Ewan noted this, adding that many of the teams will be looking to ensure just that scenario.
"Looking at the course, maybe there's a few days where if a team really wants to try and split the race, they might be able to," he said. "But a lot of the good teams have sprinters here, so it's not really in their favour to make the race hard."
Whatever happens during the rest of this week, Ewan is still 23, still on the upswing of his career. If everything goes to plan, he should have a few more 'best seasons yet' ahead of him.
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