After two consecutive second places, neo-pro sprinter has made his breakthrough at the Tour de Langkawi, winning stage three in a reduced bunch sprint and moving into the race lead. The victory marks the 20-year-old’s first victory off Australian soil as a professional and the first for ORICA-GreenEDGE at the Tour de Langkawi.
It also moves the young gun into the overall race lead, with 13seconds advantage to Natnael Berhane (MTN – Qhubeka).
“It’s a bit of a relief,” Ewan said. “Today was a bit harder and the sprinters weren’t really there.”
“It was a pretty hard day for the whole team. Obviously with me being the only sprinter in the group, the team had to work pretty hard to bring back the break.
“It was good to get the win in the end to reward them.”
After putting on the pressure with his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates on two early climbs, Ewan arrived into Tanah Merah with a group of 50 riders and was too strong for Youcef Reguigui (MTN – Qhubeka) and Leanardo Duque (Team Colombia) who rounded out the podium.
“I was pretty tired coming into the final sprint,” Ewan continued.
“Pieter (Weening) did a really good job. We just waited and let the other teams do some work in the last few kilometres and then in the last kilometre we moved up right near the front.
“I just jumped on a few other guys wheels in the sprint and came around them with about 200metres to go.”
Despite the race lead, the pint-sized sprinter said the team will likely stick with their stage ambitions as the priority in the coming days.
“We will probably keep going for stage wins like we have been,” Ewan said. “I don’t think it’ll change too much with the yellow jersey.”
“We will probably be expected to do a bit more than what we have had to so far so that will make it a bit harder but we are more than capable of doing it.”
The 170km stage three journey from Gerik to Tanah Merah presented two categorised climbs in the first 70km, the second of which a category one up Titiwangsa.
With 100km left to recover, one would have commonly assumed the damage would not have been so great but at the top of the second king of the mountain the race was in three pieces.
An early-established five-rider breakaway led a first chase group of approximately 45 riders with Ewan, fellow sprinter Leigh Howard, New Zealand’s Sam Bewley and ORICA-GreenEDGE general classification leader Pieter Weening at three minutes 20seconds, and a trailing group at over six minutes.
The back group, with the winner of the previous two stages and race leader Andrea Guardini (Astana Pro Team), never recovered as ORICA-GreenEDGE kept their foot on the gas at the front.
“The first 70km was basically all uphill and we wanted to make it as hard as possible,” sport director Matt Wilson said.
“We hoped it would cause as much damage as it did but to be honest I am surprised. On paper it wasn’t a terribly hard climb, it was a fairly gradual gradient, and I was pretty sure the sprinters would be able to come back because there was such a long way to the finish.
“Fortunately for us the gap was just too big and we had enough troops at the top that we could keep the speed up and take the morale out of the chase group.”
Always great to have a win on the board, Wilson said there is more to come for the up-and-coming talent.
“It’s our first win at Langkawi, so for Caleb and for me personally it’s a relief,” Wilson said.
“I think it would be great for him to beat Guardini head to head in a sprint, that would be a huge feather in his cap. But not taking anything away from his win today, he was one of the better climbers today, he was there with 25 guys at the top of the climb. He is a fantastic talent.”