Team Lotto-Soudal is backing its new sprinter in the grand tours. Ewan has not raced a grand tour since 2017, a period when his former team Mitchelton-Scott focused on overall classification cyclists Adam and Simon Yates, and Esteban Chaves.
“They’re giving me pressure but they’re also giving me pretty much full support,” Ewan told SBS of his new team.
“I’m going to put more pressure on myself than the team is going to anyway, so it’s not affecting me at all.”
“There is a little bit more pressure, but I’ve always said if I’m going to have the pressure, which I also had at Mitchelton, I prefer to have the support with me as well.”
The 24-year-old won stages in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. Last summer, he planned on debuting his unique sprint in the Tour de France. After a successful campaign in the Giro — 13 days in the lead with Simon Yates and five stage wins — Mitchelton-Scott continued its push in the overall classification and left Ewan at home.
The move to Lotto-Soudal this winter is significant for both Ewan and the Belgian team. The team is hitting refresh with Ewan, who replaced sprinter André Greipel, 36, a seven-year veteran of Lotto. Up until 2019, the young Aussie has only raced for the Orica team organization since the start of his pro career.
Indicating its faith in Ewan, the team gave him the green light for both the Italian grand tour in May and the Tour in July. The Giro will be a type of practice heading towards the Tour.
“It’s going to be like two years since I started a grand tour, which is not ideal,” Ewan added. And though he won’t say it, it is likely Ewan will abandon mid-Giro to leave himself as fresh as possible for the Tour.
“It will be good to start a grand tour before the Tour actually starts but I think it’s also about getting wins, as well.
“There are a lot of sprint opportunities [at the Giro]. I’m pretty much the main sprinter of the team so I think it’s a good opportunity for me to try and get some stage wins. If I can get stage wins there it will give me confidence going into the Tour also.”
Ewan’s unique chest-to-stem sprint position saw him finish best of the rest behind a solo Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) in Milano-Sanremo last year. In grand tours, he must reestablish himself after a hiatus.
New top sprinters emerged in the last two years including Colombian Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors). Both are expected to race the Giro and Tour in 2019. Gaviria won four stages and the points jersey in 2017’s Giro and in the 2018 Tour, wore the leader’s jersey and won two stages. Viviani won four stages in the Giro and three in the Vuelta a España in 2018.
Ewan already gave his new team a win Wednesday in Australia’s Lexus of Blackburn Bay Criterium Series. Afterward, he will race the national championship and the Santos Tour Down Under before heading to Europe.
“I haven’t done so much intensity so the crits have been pretty hard for me,” Ewan said. “I think they will bring me up to another level into nationals and then into the Tour Down Under. Hopefully, I’m in my peak form by the time Down Under starts.”