• A man in a hurry, but good things come to the Caleb that waits. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Caleb Ewan's maiden stage win at the Giro d'Italia was confirmation of something he already proved three months earlier, writes Anthony Tan.
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Cycling Central
14 May 2017 - 6:47 PM  UPDATED 14 May 2017 - 7:05 PM

It was not this year's Tour Down Under - after taking out the People's Choice Classic, he won four out of six stages on offer - where I believed Caleb Ewan had come of age.

It was one month later, in the Middle East of all places; the final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour.

At the TDU he had convincingly beaten current world road champion and five-time Tour de France points winner Peter Sagan, multiple times. But in the third edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour, which this year became a WorldTour event, race organisers had managed to lure the crème de la crème: Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, André Greipel. Plus a 5-foot-5, 22-year-old who grew up in the New South Wales' Southern Highlands, hoping before too long to be cast in the same breath.

Over that 48-hour period, Ewan came closer than anybody to winning a stage and wearing the maglia rosa without actually winning or wearing pink.

Day one did not go as his Orica-Scott outfit had planned. Cavendish won and Ewan, who along with Kittel was caught in a final kilometre crash, bookended the results sheet by finishing last. Twenty-four hours later, he was set to turn misfortune to triumph yet zeal got the better of him as he celebrated too early, granting Kittel line honours. "When you don't carry on sprinting until the line comes, that definitely helps your opponent, in this case me. It's one of those mistakes that every sprinter has made," the oversized German said. Though Cavendish acknowledged what he, Kittel, Greipel et al. would soon have to contend with: "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 (his) wheel and in the wind."

The third day was irrelevant as far as sprinters were concerned, as Rui Costa of UAE Emirates sealed the GC deal on the mountaintop finish at Jebel Hafeet - leaving Ewan one last chance to get it right.

Just like at this year's Giro d'Italia, the pressure was building. He didn't have to win (regardless, he was down to ride Milan-Sanremo and the Giro, both for the first time) but more than Cavendish, more than Kittel, and more than Greipel, he wanted to win. And on the Yas Marina F1 circuit, desire, speed, and luck - every one needs a little luck - created the perfect alchemy for a man who, according to head sports director Matt White, "knows exactly where he wants to go, and that's to be one of the world's best sprinters, winning stages at the Tour de France."

Stage 4 result, Abu Dhabi Tour: 1. Caleb Ewan 2. Mark Cavendish 3. André Greipel.

"If you really want to be on top you need to beat Kittel, Cavendish and Greipel and for me beating them all here... I'm over the moon with that," said a gleeful Ewan. At that moment, he realised on his day, he can beat them all.

Given his build-up was curtailed by a heavy crash on the opening road stage at Tirreno-Adriatico that left him unable to continue, after 291 kilometres, 10th in Sanremo on debut was a damn fine result. Still, late last month at the Tour de Yorkshire, and a week out from the Grande Partenza in Sardinia, a pair of second places (behind Dylan Groenewegen and Nacer Bouhanni) would have frustrated him. 'I'm better than that,' he would've told himself. 'I know I am.'

As it turned out, the first two days of the Giro's centenary edition could not have been more exasperating. Over that 48-hour period, Ewan came closer than anybody to winning a stage and wearing the maglia rosa without actually winning or wearing pink.

On the opening stage, a late flyer by Lukas Pöstlberger of Bora-Hansgrohe put paid to the sprinters' chances, as Ewan claimed the bunch sprint for second ahead of Greipel. The next day in Tortoli he was in perfect position and about to launch himself, when a bit of argy bargy saw him pull his foot and, in that split second, his ambition to win the stage and take the race lead was shattered. If you've seen the video, the way he remonstrated with himself afterwards was palpable; it was not hard to feel the discontent coursing through his veins. Oh, to be a fly on the wall inside the Orica-Scott bus that afternoon...

He had five days to stew over it before the next real opportunity presented itself. For a man in such a hurry to win stages at the Tour, even though he is yet to ride it and this year won't, it must've felt like an eternity. But as history has shown, when young Caleb is forced to wait for something, good things come.

Friday last, after 5 hours, 35 minutes and 18 seconds and on a tricky finish in Alberobello that suited his ability and agility to a T, so it did.

Stage 7 result, Giro d'Italia: 1. Caleb Ewan 2. Fernando Gaviria 3. Sam Bennett.

Caleb Ewan finally gets his Giro stage win
But it sure was close with a photo needed to determine the winner of stage 7 out of Ewan (Orica-Scott), Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors).

"It feels so good after the first few disappointments I've had. I don't think I've felt so good before. It was a bit crazy at the end. We got caught too far back at about three kilometres to go. But we found each other. We didn't panic. The boys did a perfect job.

"I came to the Giro this year with a lot of expectations on myself. I wanted to win a stage but I had some bad luck. It was frustrating: every loss put an extra pressure. It's a big relief to finally win. This is my second Grand Tour stage victory now after the (2015) Vuelta. It couldn't make me happier. It was a super-long day with only two guys in the breakaway. We were sitting near the front, side by side; it was pretty relaxing until the last three or four kilometres. I jumped a little bit earlier than I probably would have, but it was a good choice at the end."

And, unlike the second stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, his arms were not held aloft till he stood on the podium.

It could be a Orica-Scott proverb: good things come to the Caleb who waits.