Credit: Chris Auld/Santos Tour Down Under
The rain came down during the Schwalbe Classic, but nothing could dampen the explosive firepower of Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), who took out the race in a fast and furious sprint ahead of Elia Viviani and Simone Consonni (both Cofidis).
Ewan flew up the outside along the barriers to take an emphatic victory in the traditional lead-up criterium before the Tour Down Under, gapping his fellow sprinters in a brutal reminder of his abilities. The Australian fast man talked how his first sprint of 2019 played out, leaving the wheel of leadout man Roger Kluge to fly to victory.
“I didn’t actually know what he (Kluge) was doing because he let the wheel go and I didn’t know what he was doing, so I made the decision to jump around him,” said Ewan. “After the race, he told me that he left the gap and was going to launch me, but I wasn’t waiting around to see what he was going to do.”
Ewan was a regular figure at the back of the peloton during the first half of the race, with the cameras catching the sprinter often tailing himself off during the corners.
“I do it every year actually,” said Ewan, “just cruising at the back. If you’re at the back of the bunch, you can let the wheel go and take your own line through the corners with braking. I think I saved a lot of energy, but it’s always that if it’s too tough at the back you can move up.”
A barren 2019 edition of the Tour Down Under for Ewan prompted a revision of Ewan’s normal January schedule for this season, a change that the Australian sprinter hopes pays dividends.
“I was doing a lot of hard work the last few months,” said Ewan, “and I wanted to keep the momentum of last year going here. I took the decision to stay a bit longer with my family than doing Bay Crits, nationals and all that kind of stuff. It worked tonight and hopefully it will keep working into the Tour.”
“Last year, I did (all those races) to prepare for this and came away with nothing. After that I had a bit of a re-think if I want to start so full-gas, I think it affects you later in the year. It is a long season and now I have to be hitting targets in July, which I didn’t have to do before.”
The race got away to a fast start, with the 30 laps of the more inner-city course seeing a more technically demanding race than previous editions.
Nicholas White (UniSA) was the main beneficiary of the early break as he jumped clear in the intermediate sprints to claim two of the four primes on offer, with Manuele Boaro (Astana) and Josef Cerny (CCC) claiming one apiece. The break was never allowed much of a leash, getting out to 30 seconds at most as the sprinters teams controlled the race.
UniSA and Team INEOS were most prominent in the chase until it came time for the sprint trains to get into action after the breakaway catch came with four laps remaining. EF Education First swamped the front of the race inside the final lap, but down the long finishing straight, it was Ewan’s impressive sprint that saw him claim victory.
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger