• Caleb Ewan. (Kathryn Watt-Watt Shotz Photography)Source: Kathryn Watt-Watt Shotz Photography
Caleb Ewan was too strong for his sprint rivals as he won the national criterium championship for the second-straight year.
Cycling Central

5 Jan 2017 - 6:24 AM  UPDATED 21 Dec 2018 - 11:58 AM

Ewan's successful defence of his Australian criterium championship had the look of a cycling star who is mastering his art.

Boxed in at the bottom of the home straight, the Orica-Scott ace did not panic and timed his sprint to perfection on Ballarat's Sturt St circuit.

Ewan, the strong pre-race favourite, came through on the outside to narrowly beat Scott Sunderland and Brenton Jones.

It was his third win on Sturt St, with Ewan's under-23 criterium title in 2014 an early confirmation of his massive potential.

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Now entering his fifth year at Orica-Scott, the man hailed as the sprint heir to the legendary Robbie McEwen in Australian cycling is no longer just a rising star gaining experience.

"I can't remember how many times I've raced on this course - I've done well from getting a lead out and also coming from behind," he said.

"So when I was boxed off the wheel in the last corner, I didn't panic too much.

"If I didn't have the confidence, I might have panicked and waited too late for my sprint."

It was Ewan's second win in as many days, after he also took out the last round of the Bay Classic series.

Ewan's shock crash on New Year's Day, which ended his hopes of a third-straight Bay Classic title, is already no more than a bad memory.

He capped a great start to the nationals for Orica-Scott, with Jessica Allen winning the women's criterium.

Ewan beat many of Australia's top sprinters on Wednesday night and Jones, a consistent podium finisher in the criterium, said his rival was a class act.

"One thing is we go into every race, trying to find ways to beat him," Jones said.

"It's awesome for us, as guys trying to beat him, to gain experience from him, learn from him, race against him."

Nathan Earle also impressed, attacking by himself before halfway in the 44km race.

He was joined by eight other riders and they led by as much as 25 seconds, but the bunch caught them on the last lap.

Ewan received strong support from teammates Damien Howson and Mitch Docker, helping ensure it would come down to a bunch sprint.

After two years with top professional team Sky, Earle has had a rough run and only signed a contract last month with Japanese team Ukyo.

Earle's strong ride on Wednesday was a confidence boost for Sunday and the the nationals road race.

Asked what he was capable of on Sunday, Earle replied "winning".

"I believe that without being cocky," he said.

The nationals continue on Thursday with the individual time trials.

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