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Tour de France

Pressure on Ewan as he earns ‘dream’ ticket to Tour

Sprinter Caleb Ewan finally gets selected for his first Tour de France. But he's not just riding for the experience

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Caleb Ewan finally punches his ticket to the Tour de France, and the pressure will be on from stage one as he steps into the role as lead driver of the powerful sprint train at Lotto-Soudal.

The Australian sprinter was overlooked last year in a bid to race the Tour in what was the final nail in the coffin of Ewan’s departure from Mitchelton-Scott. As his former team turns its focus on the overall standings, Ewan will headline traditional sprinter powerhouse Lotto-Soudal that is putting sprints at the center of its ambitions.

“I want to say how excited I am to be selected for the Tour,” Ewan said Tuesday. “It’s going to be a dream come true for me.”

To say there will be pressure on Ewan to deliver a stage win is an understatement.

Ewan, who turns 25 on July 11, already boasts stages in both the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia, including two in the 2019 edition, but he’s yet to start a Tour.

After a controversial exclusion from last year’s Tour, next month he’ll line up in Brussels to headline the Belgian outfit. With a team packed with stage-hunters and sprint lead-out riders, Lotto-Soudal isn’t bringing anyone to focus on the GC. Add that Ewan is filling the shoes of former franchise sprinter André Greipel, now at Arkea-Samsic, and the pressure will be significant for Ewan who brings six wins this season into the Tour.

Team manager Marc Sergeant made it plain that the team’s ambitions will largely rest on Ewan during the Tour.

“Caleb Ewan will be at the start of the Tour for the first time in his career, but he will put the necessary pressure on himself,” Sergeant said. “I think the ambition to also win a Tour stage will come automatically.”

Sergeant said the team is hoping to win at least one stage throughout the three-week Tour. Greipel won at least one stage in six consecutive editions of the Tour from 2011 to 2016, so the expectations are high after the team left the Tour last year without a victory.

“Let us begin to say that it is our ambition to win one stage,” Sergeant said. “However, my experience has taught me that once the first stage victory arrives, a second one follows a bit easier. So, the faster we could win a first one, the better for us. The opening stage immediately is an opportunity to do so and we will try to use it. And if not, we will shift focus towards the following stages.”

Ewan and the other sprinters will have their first chance in the opening stage in Brussels. This year’s Tour sees at least six stages likely to conclude with a sprint before the course dips into the Pyrénées at the end of the second week. Last year saw a massive exodus of sprinters in the final week, so Ewan and the other fast men in the bunch will try to get their win as early as possible.

“I’m also excited about the first stage being a sprint because it’s an opportunity for us sprinters to take the yellow jersey,” Ewan said. “It’s going to be a tough three weeks, but we’ve got such a strong team, and I am looking forward to starting the Tour with all the boys.”

Beyond the sprint stages, Lotto-Soudal will see opportunities with breakaway specialists such as Thomas De Gendt, Tiesj Benoot and Maxime Monfort.

Lotto-Soudal for 2019 Tour de France
Tiesj Benoot (BEL, 25)
Jasper De Buyst (BEL, 25)
Thomas De Gendt (BEL, 32)
Caleb Ewan (AUS, 24)
Jens Keukeleire (BEL, 30)
Roger Kluge (GER, 33)
Maxime Monfort (BEL, 36)
Tim Wellens (FRA, 28)