Caleb Ewan showed just why he’s Australia’s brightest sprint hope as he unleashed a powerful effort to win the opening stage of the Santos Tour Down Under into the town of Lyndoch.
After winning the People’s Choice Classic on Sunday, much was expected of Orica GreenEDGE’s rising star, and Ewan didn’t disappoint, riding away from respected sprinters Mark Renshaw (Dimension Data) and Wouter Wippert (Cannondale Pro Cycling) with apparent ease.
Ewan will be thankful his team was able to shelter him throughout the day, with strong winds and dust storms battering the peloton on a very hot, dry day.
A humble Ewan paid tribute to team leader Simon Gerrans after the race, saying “I need to thank Simon Gerrans for sharing the team with me (because) if he’d asked for the whole team to ride for him we’d do so”, before adding “for a guy like that to tell me you can have your go, I’m really grateful.”
“It’ll be a really proud moment for me to race in the ochre jersey tomorrow,” he said. “I’ve never led a World Tour race before and to do it in my own country means a lot to me.”
Third place finisher Wippet reserved some special praise for Ewan: “Ewan is too good these days to go that far out. Timing is everything with wind like this and I am happy we didn’t crash”.
By winning the opening stage, Ewan has assumed the lead in the General Classification, the 10 second time bonus he earnt putting him 4 seconds clear of Renshaw and Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale) who are tied for 2nd. Gougeard’s time bonuses came courtesy of winning both intermediate sprints on Stage 1, and his attacking ride also earnt him the Most Competitive Rider award.
As well as leading the General Classification, Ewan also finds himself leading the Sprint Classification and the Young Riders Classification.
Sean Lake (Uni SA) – who was part of the 3 man break that contained Gougeard and Martijn Keizer (Team Lotto NL-Jumbo) – won the King of the Mountain climb on North East Road and, as a result, leads the King of the Mountain classification.
Tomorrow’s stage takes the riders from Unley up into the Adelaide Hills, where they will tackle a loop circuit around Aldgate, Mylor and Stirling, with Stirling the host town for the race finish.
The 132km stage is quite hilly but not too severe, with the King of the Mountain climb up Range View Road (1.3kms long, 6.8% gradient) providing the biggest challenge to the riders.
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