Australia’s newest cycling star Caleb Ewan unleashed a withering turn of speed to claim the opening stage of the UCI Tour Down Under in South Australia on Tuesday.
Ewan, 21, burst onto the world cycling scene in 2015 with a series of strong results, including winning a stage at Spain’s Vuelta.
He showed his class Tuesday, biding his time perfectly to overwhelm the rest of the field and win in three hours, 24.13 minutes.
The ORICA GreenEDGE rider finished a clear bike length ahead of fellow Australian Mark Renshaw (Team Dimension Data) and Cannondale’s Wouter Wippert from the Netherlands.
“I felt really good all day and the team obviously backed me all day because they rode at the front from the start,” Ewan said.
“I’m just so happy I could finish it off for them.”
The 130.8-kilometre opening stage from Prospect, just north of Adelaide, to the Barossa Valley town of Lyndoch, went ahead in oppressive heat that tested the cyclists in their first race of the year.
Temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius throughout the day, while riders also had to deal with strong winds and high humidity.
The first stage had a familiar feel to it when UniSA’s Sean Lake attacked at the four-kilometre mark, a standard tactic at the Tour Down Under from the local team made up of promising Australian riders.
Lake was joined at the front by France’s Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale) and Dutchman Martin Keizer (Lotto NL-Jumbo) with the trio breaking away to lead by over two minutes.
But the peloton, led by ORICA GreenEDGE’s Michael Hepburn, never let them get away and slowly began to reel them in.
Keizer was dropped with 38 kilometres to go and Gougeard gave up at the 22km mark, but Lake persevered until inside the last 10 kilometres, when he was finally caught.
First Team Sky and then African outfit Dimension Data came to the front to try and set the race up for their respective sprinters Ben Smith and Renshaw.
But Ewan glided up on the long finishing straight and with 50 metres to go, changed gear and surged to the lead for an emphatic victory.
“You have to be super-conservative because the sprinters are so fast these days it’s usually the guy with the freshest legs and the strongest team who wins,” said Ewan, who will now wear the ochre leader’s jersey.
“It’s a really proud moment for me. I’ve never led a World Tour race and to lead my first one in my own country is a real honour for me.”
Wednesday’s 132km second stage starts in Adelaide and finishes in the picturesque town of Stirling, a ride expected to favour the general classification hopefuls rather than the sprinters. – Agence France-Presse