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SEOUL (VN) — After seven days of racing, the 2015 Tour de Korea came down to the final 65km city circuit on Sunday.
Tino Thömel (RTS-Santic Racing Team) won the battle over Patrick Bevin (Avanti Racing Team), the stage-5 winner who entered the day in second place, just eight seconds behind Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge), and Wouter Wippert (Drapac Pro Cycling), who won stages 1 and 6.
However, it was Ewan, who had already claimed four stages earlier in the week, who won the war.
Stage 8, run around the still-under-construction 123-floor, 1,824-foot-tall Lotte World Tower & Hotel, offered two intermediate sprint opportunities with valuable bonus seconds. And while the first were claimed by a four-rider breakaway, Ewan was able to recover from a puncture to nab the second.
Bevin’s fifth second-place finish pulled him to within four seconds on general classification, but kept him at second overall.
“Probably the most disappointing second place in a stage I’ve gotten all race,” Bevin told VeloNews.
“There was a slight backfire on the intermediate sprints to get a couple of seconds back but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter because if I had won the stage I would have won the race.”
The UCI 2.1 Asia Tour win marks the first stage-race victory of Ewan’s six-month pro career, and his 10th overall.
“To win a stage was the goal for the team so to come away with four and then the young rider, GC and sprint classifications is a massive bonus,” the 20-year-old Australian told VeloNews.
“The main thing is I really got to work on our lead-out and that was the main goal coming here, to really gel as a team, and I am really happy with them.”
His lead-out man, Adam Blythe, who has been racing with Ewan all season, finished third overall.
“I have pretty much done all my racing with Adam,” said Ewan. “So, it was really nice to have him on the podium with me and I think it’s a bonus for him to be on the podium as well.”
With the four stage wins in Korea, Ewan has collected 10 on the year, doubling pre-season expectations set by the team. GreenEdge sports director David McPartland says that have been a bit conservative in retrospect, but was still a fair number.
“We didn’t want to put too much pressure on him,” McPartland told VeloNews. “He puts enough pressure on himself. I mean, he wants to improve and impress more than we want him to, so it’s our responsibility to try and keep him relaxed and keep all things in perspective.”
Spurred on by his parents, Mark and Kassandra, who flew into Korea two days earlier to surprise him before his stage-7 win on Saturday, Ewan says that while he appreciates his accomplishments to date, he looks forward to even more impressive results down the road.
“I’ve done what I’ve been expected to do and I’m happy with how the year has gone,” said Ewan. “But I’d still like to get a couple more wins — hopefully, bigger ones.
“But at the end of the day, these wins are a highlight of my career and it’s nice to work with a professional team. I’m still a fan of cycling and to have Orica-Edge riding in front of me helping me win these races is really special.”
As for his family’s support, the Monaco-based sprinting sensation relishes the storybook ending in Korea.
“It’s nice because I haven’t seen them for a while since I left Australia,” said Ewan. “It was a nice surprise having them here and I’m glad I could pull off the overall for them.”
Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews.