Caleb Ewan’s Diary: season highlights and stepping up

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In the latest instalment in Caleb Ewan’s Diary for CyclingTips, the 20-year-old sprinter reflects on his season and on the last few months in particular.

Well it’s been a long season and even though I didn’t win a heap of races it’s been a fantastic journey. I just got home to Australia after the Tour of Beijing for some much needed R&R. The only racing I’m doing here is a crit in Newcastle a couple weeks ago which Orica was the main sponsor of. Fortunately I won it, so it was a great way to finish things off. It’ll be another two weeks before I get back on the bike and start training again.

I’ve mainly been keeping things low key and catching up with friends and family. If I’m riding it’s no more than two hours at a time and I’ve been enjoying doing a bit of mountain biking.

Brad McGee and I hit the trails in the Southern Highlands the other day. I live only 15km from his place so I get to see him often when I’m home. He’s still quite the mentor to me and he goes pretty well on the mountain bike. He just did a 24-hour mountain bike race a couple weeks back, and he’s certainly still in good form.

Tour of Beijing – my first WorldTour race with Orica-GreenEdge

The Tour of Beijing went pretty well but it would have been nice to get a win. I had a few good opportunities but it was still good experience to race with the team properly. It was amazing to go in there for my first race with the team and have their full support for some of the stages.

In hindsight, on the first stage if I could have started my sprint earlier I could have had a better chance, but I got boxed in. On the third stage I had a perfect lead-out but in the end I didn’t have the legs to win it. All I can remember is kicking off the wheel and as soon as I went I thought “oh no, I’ve got nothing!”.

It was pretty cool for a guy like me, or any neo-pro for that matter, having support from guys like Daryl Impey and Mat Hayman in my first WorldTour race. I don’t think many would get that opportunity. That’s the great thing about OGE – they’re already giving me chances and I don’t need to prove myself by riding on the front for two years. They’re already giving me these incredible opportunities and that’s what I need as a sprinter in order to develop. I learned a fair bit from Beijing and hopefully that will turn into wins in a couple years.

Caleb Ewan finishes second place behind Luka Mezgec on stage 1 of his first official World Tour race at the Tour of Beijing.
Caleb Ewan finishes second place behind Luka Mezgec on stage 1 of his first official World Tour race at the Tour of Beijing.

As I evolve as a rider it’s looking more and more like I’m slotting in as a being a pure sprinter. A lot of guys can climb in U23s or in the juniors, but when you get to the pro ranks it’s a completely different level. In U23s I can get over some of the climbs and in U19s I could climb pretty well, but the further on I get in my career the more I realise how incredibly good the climbers are and I can’t even come close to matching them.

Maybe 10 years down the track I could go well at races like the Ardennes Classics — when I’m older and stronger — but I’m still too young to handle those really long one-day races just yet.

Season Highlights

My highlights from the 2014 season would be my stage win at Tour de l’Avenir and my second place at the Worlds. It was disappointing not to win, but I was happy to get around the whole course and our team rode as well as any WorldTour team would have. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team in U23s control a World Championship like they did. It was pretty impressive.

I’ve been asked a lot if I think that the U23 Australian team did too much work on the front, but I really don’t think so. What people don’t realise is that when the team was controlling things on the climbs, that’s exactly what they were doing – they were really controlling it. And that’s exactly what I needed so that I could get over the climbs.

If they didn’t control it then we’d have attacks up the climbs every time and it would have gotten faster and faster. Whereas, because we were on the front, everyone sat back and relaxed which is exactly what we wanted and it helped me relax and kept me out of trouble. If we could do it again there’s nothing we could have done to change the outcome.

Last time I wrote here I said that I stayed as an U23 instead of going pro because one of my big aims was the World championships this year. It was later in the season when I pre-rode the course in Spain where I thought it was going to be too difficult for me to win. But before the race the team sat down I and felt that I had the legs to win the race if the team was able to control the race.

If the race was a free-for-all and was raced really hard, it wouldn’t have suited me at all. So we made a plan that we’d control the race, bring back the breaks so we could take it easy up the climbs, then on the descents and flats we’d jam it. That made it harder for the guys just sitting in the bunch at the back because we’d be pushing it through the towns and around the corners so when we got to the climbs everyone was a little tired.

Before Sven Erik Bystrom won that race I had barely heard of him before. I can’t remember if he even won a race all year, but with the ride he put in did he ever deserve to win the rainbow jersey. The bunch didn’t hesitate at all and all the guys who were feeling good absolutely flew up that final climb and Sven was by far the strongest. He didn’t get lucky.

At the moment I don’t think I’ll need to come into the season in any better form than I’ve done in previous seasons. For the past few years I’ve needed to be going well at the Bay Crits and Nationals, but this year I don’t need to be firing on all cylinders until the end of January or even March. I’ll get a bit more time to build up and ease into it than in previous years.

I won’t be doing the Tour Down Under this year and won’t be going back to Europe until after the Tour of Langkawi at the beginning of March — my first race for the year. I’ve decided to move my home base from Italy where I’ve been living for the past couple years to the beautiful south of France.

Stepping up

Stepping up to the WorldTour level isn’t going to change anything with the way I train in the lead-up to 2015. I’ll keep training the way I’ve always been doing and I don’t want to change anything up too drastically. Simply doing more racing at the WorldTour level will give me the training benefits I need to be competitive.

I’ll have a lot more race days with OGE than I did last year, so managing my recovery in between races will be the main focus. In between races I’ll need to concentrate on having good training blocks during the down time. In the U23s I had about 40 race days, and I reckon next year will be about 60 race days.

My goals for next season? Well it’s still a little uncertain for me. I’d obviously like to get a few wins but I don’t really know my program beyond Tour of Langkawi. The guys at OGE have developed lots of young riders before and I’m putting complete trust in them to give me a race program that will suit me and help me develop. I don’t know what to expect to be honest, but I’m quite excited about it!

Click here for previous editions of Caleb Ewan’s Diary.

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