• Caleb Ewan: how low can he go? (Getty)Source: Getty
When you have the most prolific Grand Tour stage winner in today's peloton telling you that you're a lousy sit, you'd probably take notice.
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Cycling Central
27 Feb 2017 - 3:17 PM  UPDATED 27 Feb 2017 - 4:34 PM

You might even be offended, perhaps thinking it was your inability to ride in a straight line, à la Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, a.k.a. The Tashkent Terror.

But when Caleb Ewan "stuffed up" his sprint Friday on Stage 2 at the Abu Dhabi Tour, celebrating too early and granting Marcel Kittel the win, Mark Cavendish, winner of 48 Grand Tour stages, 30 of those at the Tour de France, was in fact paying our Aussie sprint sensation a massive compliment.

"Like Cavendish's famed double kick, Ewan, because of that precariously low, chin-often-below-the-bars-sprint-style of his, will always have something extra."

"Today in all honesty Caleb was the strongest, riding into a block headwind. I couldn't match him. I knew with a kilometre to go I was too far forward because in a headwind you need to be in the wheels. With Marcel's strength he's always going to come 5kmh faster, with his power. I went to pass Caleb but couldn't do it.

Ewan pipped by Kittel after early Abu Dhabi dance
Caleb Ewan received credit from Mark Cavendish but was nonetheless left embarrassed after a premature celebration cost him victory on the line at stage two of the Abu Dhabi Tour on Friday.

"(The) wind was coming harder than anticipated in the finale and we seemed to be too close to the front too soon, with our four guys. I was relieved that Orica came so we could jump on them. Ideally, you want to be further back in that wind.

"I've never sprinted off Caleb before and it's the first time I've understood how hard it is to come off a small rider. There's no difference between being on the wheel and in the wind."

If Cavendish, a sprinter with arguably the greatest lucidity in the final kilometre and at 175 centimetres tall, just 10cm taller than Ewan, finds his back wheel a dead slipstream, what chance do Kittel (188cm) and André Greipel (184cm) have?

Two days later, on the final stage around the Yas Marina F1 circuit, we found the answer: none.

Ewan ends his Abu Dhabi roller coaster ride with a big win
Caleb Ewan turned the tables on his Abu Dhabi Tour campaign and ended it on a high beating Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel in a drag race to win the fourth and final stage.

Armed with his track pedigree, Ewan, as he gains further experience and confidence, will soon be as agile as Cavendish. Kittel and Greipel can only dream about darting in and out like that; their weight and centre of gravity forbid them from doing so.

And as the 22-year-old's body matures, as it has noticeably done the past two seasons, he will have the stamina to go harder for longer. Who knows, he may well get to Sanremo in the front group this year, La Classicissima slated for March 18, and if he does, he says "of course I'll go for the win". No doubt, he'll aim to finish his first Grand Tour, too, which will be the centenary edition of the Giro d'Italia.

But like Cavendish's famed double kick, Ewan, because of that precariously low, chin-often-below-the-bars-sprint-style of his, will always have something extra. As he grows older and stronger, he can choose to go early, knowing his rear wheel is little better than flapping in the wind - or, as he gets faster and his acceleration improves, swinging out of lead-out men Roger Kluge or Luka Mezgec's shadows, he can leave it late.

Or, à la Robbie McEwen, he can just sit and surf off the wheels of Cav', Kittel, Greipel et al, knowing that when he jumps like a rabbit out a hat, no-one will be as aero as he.

"If you really want to be on top, you need to beat Marcel Kittel, Cavendish and Greipel and so for me beating them all here, I'm over the moon with that," he said Sunday.

It may only be February, but it already feels like the dawn of a new era of sprinters; one led by the likes of Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL–Jumbo) and Ewan.

The old guard won't go away anytime soon but there's some new kids on the block who aren't interested in seconds or thirds.