Ewan claims silver in first elite national championship

Sun 11 Jan 2015

Neo-pro Caleb Ewan has claimed the silver medal in his first elite Australian road race championship in a ride far beyond his years in Ballarat today.

At just 20-years of age, Ewan started the race in a support role for his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates but as the race unfolded in his favour, switched to put in a spirited final lap in pursuit of the coveted national jersey.

Covering countless moves in the final stages, and even launching one himself at the top of the climb, Ewan was eventually edged out by Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) for the victory.

“I gave it my all and I really tried to keep that little group together to the end to make sure it came down to a sprint,” Ewan said after the finish.

“It was the same scenario as last year in the under 23’s. I knew no one really wanted to take me to the line but I just needed to play it well, not use too much energy coming downhill to bring (the break) back together.”

Ewan, who won the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic last week, made the most of the unexpected opportunity but in his true ‘winner’ character was disappointed not to be on the top step.

“I really wanted this and today when the team gave me the opportunity in the last three laps I just found a little bit extra,” Ewan said.

“To be honest I am devastated. It would have been such a dream start to my career to get the green and gold for my first year as a professional and to come so close, it’s really hurting.

“I’ll come back here, probably for the next 15years and hopefully one day I can get the jersey.”

Less aggressive than expected, the race surprised many.

“The race panned out a little differently to what a lot of people would have expected,” sport director Matt White said.

“I think one of the factors was a very stiff headwind on the first part of the climb which made it very very hard to attack and made the race very negative.  

“A lot of the day there were breakaways up the road but they were just hovering between one or two minutes so there was no ‘break of the day’ as such which is very unusual for this course.”

With birthday boy Cameron Meyer and 2014 Jayco Herald Sun Tour champion Simon Clarke poised to react with the likes of favourites Richie Porte and Cadel Evans, the scenario never eventuated and played into the hands of the team’s dynamite sprinter.

“We got into the middle of the race with the guys whose job it was to cover the early moves and all three of them got in that last breakaway,” White continued. “They were there just for safety for the guys who were ready to react in the final.”

“In the end those guys, Cameron Meyer and Simon Clarke, didn’t get the chance to react and when we saw the cooperation wasn’t there from back in the peloton we understood that Caleb had a chance of winning.

“From there Michael Hepburn rode a very very solid last three laps and was a key factor in enabling the break to stay away over the final climb.”

Despite leaving without the jersey, White said the team leave satisfied with their performance.

“I am happy with the ride,” White said after the race.  “A 20-year-old has run second at his first national championships in the pros, the guys rode tactically well and the form is there just as we want it to be at this time of the year.”

“We came here to win but with two silver medals from Caleb and two great rides, we can’t be disappointed.”

The day’s first break established after four laps of racing – a group of 15 riders, including 2013 national champion Luke Durbridge and 2013 world under-23 time trial champion Damien Howson.

With the gap hovering between one minute and 1minute 30seconds and not many putting their hand up as aggressors, Durbridge and Howson activated the action with countermoves. 

The moves extended the break to two minutes before being brought back, the sole survivor Will Clarke (Drapac Cycling) who would later be joined and dropped by Pat Lane (African Wildlife Safaris).

With five laps remaining the action lit up from the peloton, a number of attacks over the top of the climb resulting in the formation of another strong group.

 2015 national criterium silver medalist Ewan, Hepburn and Mitch Docker were amongst the 16-strong group which eventually dwindled down to the final eight who contested the aggressive final climb and finishing sprint.

ORICA-GreenEDGE will now travel to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under.  The team will be named tomorrow.