Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) could breath a sigh of relief after finally winning a stage of the UAE Tour on Saturday. The Australian left it late, waiting until the final stage of the race before finally making his mark and beating his perennial rival Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) into second place.
Until stage 7, Ewan’s best result in the race, and this season in fact, had been third on stage 4 but he had not been able to truly contest any of the other sprints due to positioning issues, while on stage 1 he was distanced early on in the crosswinds. On stage 7 he timed his sprint perfectly, edging out Bennett.
“We came to the UAE Tour to win a stage and today, there was only one more opportunity left. It feels great to eventually achieve that goal during this last day of racing. My last few sprints were quite average, so I felt a fair amount of pressure to perform well today," Ewan said after his first win the campaign.
“The team went above and beyond to deliver me in a good position. I entered the final pretty fresh, which was in my opinion crucial to do a good sprint in the end. I wasn’t specifically looking for Bennett’s wheel, instead we tried to focus on ourselves and delivered the best lead-out possible. Roger Kluge maybe went a little too late as we started to get swamped. I had to jump from his wheel quite early as I saw Sam Bennett coming on the right with a fair bit of speed. Luckily, there was some room for me to go there as it was basically the only way out. Once I got past his wheel, I could launch my sprint and finish the job.”
Ewan typically starts the season in top form but with his usual Tour Down Under stomping ground called off this year and a winter based in Europe he has not been able to enjoy his usual rate of success. Last year, for example, Ewan won two stages in the Tour Down Under in January and followed that up with a win at Hatta Dam in the UAE Tour. He left the race with the points jersey on his shoulders but this recent win takes the pressure off before more serious goals come into view later in the spring.
“I haven’t been this far in the season without a win in my whole career, so it definitely is a bit of a relief to start the cycling season in Europe with a win under the belt. I hope this is the beginning of a great year as I have big plans for the season. So, it means a lot to start off with a win,” Ewan added.
Ewan is set to target stage wins in Tirreno-Adriatico in March before linking up with Philippe Gilbert for an assault on Milan-San Remo – a race Ewan finished second in back in 2018.
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