Step 1 in Caleb Ewan’s ambitious 2021 plan: Win a stage of the Giro
This Saturday, Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) will embark on the first leg of what he hopes will be a three-Grand Tour journey this season. The 26-year-old Australian is set to start the Giro d’Italia this weekend as he aims to win a stage in each of the three Grand Tours in 2021.
“It’s one thing going to the three [Grand Tours],” Ewan told CyclingTips in a phone interview this week. “It’s another thing managing your form so that you can win in all three.”
Ewan is already a three-time Giro d’Italia stage winner, a five-time Tour de France stage winner, and a one-time Vuelta a España stage winner. Having enjoyed success in stage races across the calendar, he got the idea a few years ago to try for a loftier goal than just winning at one or two Grand Tours in the same season.
“A few years ago, I won a couple of stages in the Giro and a couple of stages in the Tour and I thought, maybe if I went to the Vuelta, it’d be cool to win in all three,” Ewan told CyclingTips. “But my wife just gave birth before the Tour and I hadn’t been home with my daughter yet and then after the Tour I just wanted to be at home a bit more so I didn’t really want to do another Grand Tour.
“But since then, it’s been in my mind. I was already thinking of doing it last year but obviously last year it wasn’t possible. This year now is the year that I thought, alright, if I’m going to try to do it, this year is the year to do it. I think I’m coming into probably the best years of my career. So I think if there’s a time to do it, it’s probably now.”
Ewan says that he is coming into the Giro near but not quite at his best. He acknowledged that reaching his absolute peak for his early-season run at Milan-San Remo, and then the Giro, and then the Tour, and then – if he has won at the Giro and the Tour – the Vuelta too, would not be feasible. That said, he is pleased with what he has seen from his form after he resumed training and got in some racing at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana following a short break after Milan-San Remo.
Even a slightly undercooked Ewan should be the strongest sprinter on the startlist at the Giro, but he knows that getting a stage win won’t be a walk in the park. After all, there will be quite a few sprinters (and also whatever category Peter Sagan fits into) in attendance at the Giro.
“The sprint field has turned out to be better than I thought it would be,” Ewan said. “[Tim] Merlier is having a really good season so far. You never can discount [Elia] Viviani and [Fernando] Gaviria. They haven’t had great starts to the season but you know it’s in them that they can have a good sprint. You know they can win because they’ve done it before. [Dylan] Groenewegen, it’s a long time with no racing but you have to say when he got his ban, he was probably one of the top sprinters in the world. It will be interesting to see how he comes back.
“[Giacomo] Nizzolo is also going to be there. He’s had a reasonably good start to the season. I think I will be the favorite but there’s guys that are there as well that can definitely beat me, so I’m not going in 100% confident that I’m just going to go in and beat everyone. I know any of those guys on their day they can also beat me.”
That parity within the sprint field of a Grand Tour seems to be a more frequent occurrence with each passing year. Ewan may be near the very top of the sport’s sprinting hierarchy, along with the likes of Sam Bennett, but long gone are the days where only a handful of riders would reliably win almost every sprint stage in the Grand Tours.
Ewan attributes the changing times to the more widespread adoption of lead-out trains, with several squads now vying for position in the finales where only one or two teams might have been fully staffed for that a decade ago. On top of that, there are quite a few talented speedsters in the pro peloton right now capable of winning.
“The depth in sprinting now is massive,” Ewan said. “It’s really hard to be a guy that’s performing like what Cav used to do in the past, where, if it came down to a sprint, if nothing happens to Cav, he’s going to win. But now, coming into a sprint, you don’t really know who’s going to win. It’s probably a bit more exciting for the spectators and for you guys to watch. But it’s hard at the moment to be a real dominant sprinter.
“If there is a dominant sprinter, it’s Bennett. He’s probably had the best start to the season. We’ll see in the next few months with the Giro and the Tour coming up. A lot of the good sprinters will be coming out in good form.”
Ewan should have plenty of opportunities to prove that he is one of those sprinters in good form over the next few weeks and months, as he is racing both the Giro and the Tour. Indeed, Ewan acknowledged that he most wants to win at the Tour, even if it means an early exit from the Giro.
“I don’t really plan on finishing the Giro,” he said. “Like I said, the goal for the season is to win a stage in all three so that doesn’t mean I will finish all three. We need to see how the start of the Giro goes. There’s some good opportunities in the first half. Hopefully I’ll win a stage in the first half and then we can then see what would be the best preparation for the Tour. Because at the end of the day, the Tour is still the main one.”
Whichever race he’s at, you can at least expect Ewan to enjoy it. In his eighth season as a pro, he says he is still having a blast in the bunch sprints.
“I love it – I love the hecticness of it,” he said. “It’s hard to explain to someone that hasn’t been in a big bunch sprint. I enjoy it. It’s a feeling that you can’t really get from anything else. On the flip side, it sucks when you lose because you have so much adrenaline and it’s sometimes a very frustrating feeling but during the actual sprint itself it’s quite exciting.”
As the Giro approaches, Ewan is cautiously optimistic that he has measured his efforts just well enough that he can turn his speed into a victory or two without going too deep with so many goals still to come.
“I’ve come to the race with what I think is enough form to win [a] stage,” Ewan said. “We will find out soon.”