BALLARAT, Australia (CT) – Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) has become the first man to win three Australian national criterium titles, the 23-year-old achieving that feat on the streets of Ballarat this evening.
In what was his third Nationals crit win in as many years, Ewan comfortably beat Steele Von Hoff (Bennelong-SwissWellness) and Brenton Jones (Delko Marseille) in a bunch sprint on the city-centre circuit.
“It feels good,” Ewan said after claiming his gold medal. “I think that the feeling of winning never really gets old. So it’s good to get the year off to a good start again.”
As in the past two years, Ewan was the beneficiary of a clinical supporting ride from his teammates. As several groups tried to get away over the course of the race, Ewan’s teammmates — particularly Luke Durbridge and neo-pro Lucas Hamilton — controlled the tempo in the main field and kept the escapees in check.
“I think this is the strongest team we’ve had since I’ve turned pro and been racing the elite crits so I was very confident in them,” Ewan said. “It was always going to be hard to beat some of the [larger] teams here … they did it so well and they were so strong.”
Bennelong-SwissWellness (formerly IsoWhey-SwissWellness) were the main aggressors on the day, their large line-up giving them many cards to play. Michael Freiberg, Sam Crome, Chris Harper and Cameron Bayly all got up the road at various times, trying to forge a race-winning breakaway. Pat Lane (Inform), meanwhile, was the race’s most aggressive rider but despite a handful of moves he too was unable to stay clear.
The race came back together on lap 30 of the 40-lap event as the sprinters readied for the final dash to the line. After rounding the final corner in perfect position, Ewan adopted his now-familiar aerodynamic sprinting position, and was able to put several bike lengths between he and his rivals by the finish line.
The New South Welshman is scheduled to start the Tour de France for the first time this year and said that early season wins in Australia help him on that journey.
“It’s really really important because I just need that confidence boost going into the season,” he said. “I think my form’s good again at the start of the season here and I hope I can take it on into the season in Europe.”
In the day’s earlier men’s races, Cameron Scott (ACA-Ride Sunshine Coast) won the U23 event from a breakaway and Stephen Cuff won the U19 race in a bunch sprint. Meanwhile in the women’s races Sarah Gigante won the U19 women’s race after lapping the field, and Rebecca Wiasak won the elite women’s race in a bunch sprint.
The FedUni Road National Championships continue on Thursday with the time trials and on the weekend with the road races.