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MUJU, South Korea (VN) — Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) has found success in his return to his mother’s homeland by winning stage 2 of Tour de Korea on Monday. It was a proud victory for the 20-year-old born in New South Wales of Australian and Korean lineage.
The ‘Boy Wonder’ bounced back on the 174.4km race from Gumi to Muju after hitting the pavement in a heated, crash-marred finish on the opening stage, which gave way for 24-year-old Dutchman Wouter Wippert (Drapac Pro Cycling) to claim to both the stage and the yellow leaders jersey.
“It’s nice to get my first win in Korea,” an appreciative Ewan told VeloNews. “I was a bit stiff when I woke up because of the crash yesterday, but once my body got warmed up again and we got racing then everything sort of seemed to loosen up and I was feeling alright halfway through the race.”
Both Ewan and fellow Aussie teammate Mitch Docker hit the deck on stage 1 after making contact with compatriot and rival Graeme Brown (Drapac Pro Cycling), who was attempting to lead out Wippert to the finish inside the closing 200 meters.
“I think it was good to have a bit of a drag race with Wouter and really see where I am at against him because he has been going really well,” said Ewan. “It was pretty hard in the end there, but the team did an amazing job keeping everything in control.
“There were a few little breaks going on, but they always kept it within a few seconds and there was never a real threat.”
The victory gives Ewan his sixth win of the year – one more than team had targeted for the neo-pro in his first full season – and with a week of relatively flat stages remaining, including Tuesday’s 99km stage 3 circuit featuring six 16.5km laps, there will be plenty of opportunities remaining for the 2014 U23 national road race and criterium champion.
However, according to Wippert, who finished third on the day behind Ewan and New Zealander Patrick Bevin (Avanti Racing Team), Ewan and his WorldTour teammates will not receive any further cooperation from Australian Pro Continental team for the remainder of the race.
“I’m not satisfied as we had to work too hard for third place today,” a disappointed Wippert told VeloNews after the race. “We had to control the race and it took 50k to catch the break up the road and not even one other team helped us out and in the end we had lesser numbers than the other teams in contention.
“After today, if no one wants to help us, we’re not going to ride anymore all week,” he added. “We’re just going to sit on and watch what the other teams are gong to do, so we will see what happens tomorrow and if it’s a bunch sprint we are going to be fresh at the finish and if it’s not then someone else has the yellow jersey tomorrow.”
With six potential sprint stages remaining, Ewan questions Wippert’s logic.
“Wouter knows as well as we do, that we can can’t completely control the race by ourselves and neither can they,” said Ewan in response to Wippert’s comments. “So, if they want to keep going for stages as well, they are going to have to help and that’s how it is when you only have teams of six riders.
“They can say they aren’t going to help, but if they don’t then they aren’t going to get opportunities to sprint for a win either,” he said. “I think it’s in their best interest and ours to help each other.”