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We all know that Caleb Ewan is a huge talent with massive potential and it’s been a great summer of racing for the 19-year-old. He’s had great success in a whole host of summer criteriums, he won the U23 national criterium and road race championships and was then selected for the UniSA/national team for the Tour Down Under where he picked up third place in the People’s Choice Classic criterium.
In his first diary entry for CyclingTips Caleb Ewan talks about his experience at the Tour Down Under, how he handles the weight of expectation and what he’s got coming up.
I’m writing this diary because I want people to see the path that I’m taking and that there are lots of ups and downs along the way. That’s reality. It’s not as simple as riding a bike and turning pro. There’s lots that goes on behind the scenes that I want to share with you.
It’s ultimately the failures that will make me into a better bike rider worthy of being a pro. Not all the times that I’m winning.
The Tour Down Under was my first race at the top level of cycling. I’ve done lots of criteriums with a handful of WorldTour pros, the U23 World Championships, and so on, but never have I raced at this level before.
It was raced really differently to what I’m used to. U23 races are shorter and much more intense. It’s almost full gas for the entire race. Obviously it gets even harder towards the end. But in the Tour Down Under the race was ridden at both extremes of the spectrum.
It can be very very easy once the break is established, but then in the last hour it ramps up to a pace that I’ve never experienced before. In the Tour Down Under there were lots of crosswinds, so even at the start of the race it was full gas right to begin with. But there’s always a period in-between where it’s really cruisy.
This is because the team dynamics are much more organised and people are paid to do a certain job as opposed to in an U23 race. That’s the thing that our UniSA team struggled with. That’s probably to be expected because it’s hard to get a bunch of guys together a week before the race and all of a sudden think we’re all going to gel and communicate together as well as one of the ProTeams.
A lot of the established pros were very encouraging and welcoming to me and my teammates. Guys like Greipel, Kittel, Gerrans and Evans were all really down to earth and always gave words of encouragement.
It was really hard to hold position up there with people squeezing you off the wheel and other sprint trains swarming you all the time. You burn all your matches just trying to keep position. You might have seen that in the last stage. I spent everything just trying to get into position and maintain it. Once the actual sprint came I had nothing. What a contrast to U23 racing …
As far as the climbing went, I wasn’t doing so well at all. I didn’t go into the Tour Down Under with the form that I had hoped for. I was going really well at the Nationals and then I was quite flat. I knew the TDU would be a lot harder than anything I’ve ever experienced but I had higher hopes. It certainly taught me about what I need to do to improve my weaknesses.
Getting to the end of the race fresh is what I need to improve on. The sprinter who arrives at 200m to go the freshest will usually win. Other than that, they’re all just about as fast as each other.
Through the past couple years I’ve been working out what type of rider I actually am. I think I’m finally learning that sprinting is where I’ll focus on. Climbing doesn’t really come naturally to me and I have to work hard at it. The sprinting comes naturally and I’ve now come to a level where I don’t think there’s any point in me trying to be something I’m not good at.
There are too many climbers out there who are naturally good at it to try to compete. That said, people tell me I’m not a bad climber. I’ll definitely train my climbing to the best I can. If I ever get to the level of riding the Grand Tours and want to get a green jersey, I’m going to need to be able to get over the climbs.
People sometimes ask me what I think about the expectations of the media, my coaches, my teammates and the public and whether I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. To be honest, I don’t really. I’m pretty hard on myself and that’s where most of the pressure comes from.
Ever since I was much younger I’ve always put much more pressure on myself than anything external can bring. It’s still the same now. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter if a newspaper says this or that. I’m always going to do my best to win and if I can’t, I simply can’t. There’s nothing more I can do.
Of course I think it’s pretty cool that I’m only 19 and there’s all this attention, but I never think to myself, “I’ve made it now”. At the end of the day I know that I still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be. And it hasn’t been easy to get to where I am either. It doesn’t make a difference what people say.
I decided to give the Herald Sun Tour a miss and instead I’ve been spending some time in Perth on holiday. I came to Melbourne for our AIS Academy team launch and then it’s back home to the Southern Highlands (Moss Vale).
After that I’m off to a month-long camp in Canberra in an altitude house then it’s back to Europe!