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Caleb Ewan: ‘I will be pinching myself on the Tour de France start line’

first_imgWhen Caleb Ewan takes to the Tour de France start line on Saturday, he will wonder what might have been. He may only be 24, but the Australian has coveted a start since he was a precocious teenager, eager to prove himself at this grandest of Grand Tours.Ewan collected his first Grand Tour win in 2015, sprinting to victory on an early stage of the Vuelta a España. Two years later he secured success in Italy, at the hallowed Giro d’Italia. But the Tour de France is the first among equals, and for consecutive seasons a start with his team Mitchelton-Scott eluded Ewan. Legendary Tourmalet climb promises fresh Tour de France torment … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. 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Since you’re here… Facebook Share on Pinterest Finally, in December 2017, the Australian-registered World Tour outfit announced that Ewan would contest the 2018 edition. He spent the first half of last year’s season preparing for the biggest race in the world, and attended Mitchelton-Scott’s pre-Tour training camp. Then, on 21 June 2018, the team’s chief sports director Matt White dropped a bombshell: Ewan would not be part of the squad.Twelve months later, the diminutive Ewan – who subsequently moved to Lotto-Soudal – endeavours to be diplomatic about his shock omission. Time heals old wounds, and an imminent Tour de France start is no doubt a potent salve. But it is evident that Mitchelton-Scott’s decision to leave him at home a year ago still rankles.“My whole season was based around that – that one race,” he says. “It was a blow.”Korean-Australian Ewan has been destined for a big future for the best part of a decade. In 2012, just 17, he shocked a strong field to win the final stage of the Mitchelton Wines Bay Classic in Victoria. Cycling commentator Phil Liggett said at the time that Ewan’s effort in the final straight was on par with star sprinters Mark Cavendish and Robbie McEwen.Ewan joined Mitchelton-Scott as a stagiaire in mid-2014, and they prospered together. He collected almost 30 professional wins in the years that followed, developing into one of the best sprinters in the world. The 2018 Tour omission may have soured the relationship, but Ewan insists that he reflects fondly on this time with the team.“I would not change anything,” he says. “If I had to go back to when I was signing my first contract, I would still go there. I immediately had opportunities to win races – most neo-pros don’t get those opportunities.“I am the type of person that – if I had it my way, I probably would have gone to the Tour de France as a neo-pro. So it was the team’s job to hold me back. But I think in the end they held me back too much when I was ready to step up in my career. At 24, almost 25, it is a little bit late to be starting my first Tour de France.” Reuse this content When Ewan won stage eight in a bunch sprint, his elation – and relief – was visible on the podium. “Once I had ticked that box, the pressure came off.” He claimed line honours again on stage 11, before quitting the race to prepare for the Tour.His ambition in France is simple: “The goal is to win stages.” Ewan is coy when asked what success would look like, before eventually conceding that “if someone said to me right now that I’d win one stage, I’d take that – I would be pretty satisfied.” But even a solitary stage will be no easy task. “It is my first Tour so I don’t know what to expect – I am going into unknown territory. And everyone is in their best form.”On Saturday, Ewan will finally make his Tour debut when the race rolls out from Brussels. It is a moment the Australian has been longing for since he first started watching cycling as a child.“I will be pinching myself on the start line,” he says. “When I was growing up, the Tour de France was the only race that was regularly televised. It was the race that I followed. To be there racing myself – I know it is clichéd, but it is a dream come true.” Tour de France 2019: full team-by-team guide Ewan joined Lotto-Soudal in January, with the promise that he would be the Belgian team’s main man. After a self-admittedly “pretty average year” in 2018, he was eager for a big start to the season – but struggled in the early months.The Sydneysider headed to the Giro in May with a full Lotto-Soudal sprint train in support. Yet a win remained just out of reach: he placed third on stage two, second on stage four and fourth on stage five.“Nervous is not the word I would use, but I could feel the pressure building and building as I didn’t win,” he says. “I have been in that situation before – when I haven’t won a Grand Tour stage in the first week – and after a while you start doubting yourself. When you have a field that strong, you need everything to go to plan. Luckily, eventually it did.” Pinterest Share on Twitter Read more Cycling Topics Share via Email Australia sport Tour de France 2019 Tour de France Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Caleb Ewan wins stage 8 of this year’s Giro d’Italia in Pesaro. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images interviews Share on WhatsApp Support The Guardian Twitter Share on Messenger Read morelast_img read more