• Caleb Ewan (C) missed the moment on Stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under. (Getty)Source: Getty
Caleb Ewan misfired on stage one of the Tour Down Under where he is fixed on making an impression, but race leader and sprint rival Elia Viviani hasn’t yet discounted the Australian.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
15 Jan 2019 - 5:30 PM  UPDATED 15 Jan 2019 - 5:46 PM

Ewan (Lotto Soudal) finished outside of the top 10 on day one of his home race, which saw Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) come around Max Walscheid (Sunweb) to take line honours in a headwind finish. Jakub Mareczko (CCC) was third.

“The final few hundred metres I was way out of position,” said Ewan. “I was constantly in the last kilometre trying to move-up and follow wheels. I tried to start sprinting with a couple hundred metres to go but I knew as soon as I started that I didn’t have much left.”

The 24-year-old has joined Lotto Soudal as its marquee sprinter this year after a long tenure with Mitchelton-Scott, which reneged on taking the aerodynamic fast-man to the Tour de France last year.

Ewan is keen to validate the status Lotto Soudal has granted and went some way in that claiming Sunday’s Down Under Classic teaser criterium in which Viviani crashed, however, couldn’t repeat the feat in Port Adelaide on Tuesday.

“It was one of those finals that was really tricky to try and predict what was going to happen. It was pretty tough from the start, we caught the break super early and then the race shut down from there,” Ewan continued.

“Then it was teams just waiting to start their lead-outs and no-one wanted to go too early because of the headwind. We were together right near the front, in position and when it got really hectic there, in the last two corners, we lost each other a little bit and I got squeezed off the wheel. That’s when I tried to catch back-up.”

Walscheid was the first to open his sprint but went too early, unable to hold off Viviani.

“My team did a great lead-out and I really wanted to finish it off, so I went early, a bit too early but you never know. Except for Viviani, it looked like nobody could really follow,” the German said.

“I think my top speed was pretty decent, but the sprint was then a bit too long. I was pretty much dying I think at my peak speed, like 50m in front of the line. I have to time it better and then I can win.” 

With the victory, the pressure is now off Viviani and his drilled Deceuninck-QuickStep sprint team. However, the Italian national champion hasn’t discounted Ewan or Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe), who was eighth, ahead of stage two. 

“I think Sagan and Caleb are always the two strongest guys here,” Viviani said.

“Tomorrow the last 700m is slightly up. We saw how [Simon] Gerrans beat [Andre] Greipel a few years ago and it’s not an easy sprint tomorrow. Probably more for Sagan, or [Danny] Van Poppel is another name for tomorrow.

“We just try to control,” he continued. “We are more relaxed from today’s stage win. We know tomorrow is another big chance. There is not a lot of big chances for sprinters this Tour Down Under, but we want to try tomorrow, try stage five. Then we know it’s a good finish in Willunga, and we try to enjoy the climb from the back Sunday."