Finishing 10th on stage 19 to Cahors means that Caleb Ewan has just one more chance to rescue his and Lotto-Soudal’s Tour de France ,with the sprint on the Champs Élysées the last opportunity to turn the page on a disappointing race.
Ewan has crashed heavily twice in this year’s and seen bad luck and dodgy sprinting lines disrupt his chances in earlier stages, but after coming through the mountains he still has Paris in his sights. Winning in the French capital would be a huge ask given his lack of results and form in recent months, but the sprinters’ world championships has often been the territory for redemption. His fellow countryman Robbie McEwen famously went through the entire 1999 race before taking his maiden Tour stage in Paris.
“Let’s wait until Sunday,” Lotto-Soudal team boss John Lelangue told VeloNews at the Tour de France. “We know that with Caleb we have one of the fastest in the peloton. Even if the two crashes have impacted him.”
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After the Tour de France the Lotto leadership needs to address issues around its leadout positions. It is clear from an interview with VeloNews earlier in the Tour de France that Ewan eyes improvements in that area for 2023. According to Lelangue the team has between six and seven spots free for next year. They include the spot vacated by Tim Wellens.
Matthew Holmes is up for renewal, and so is Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, the rider signed mid-season and who has been parachuted into the Tour de France in order to lead Ewan out in the sprints.
“For the moment he only has a contract until the end of the season. There’s plenty of riders in his situation and I think that he’s doing a good Tour for the moment,” was all Lelangue would say about the possibility of re-signing the South African national road champion.
“We are in discussion with Caleb and have been doing that for a few months about this,” Lelangue said. “We are looking at the market and soon we’ll announce what we’re doing. We’ve been unlucky in that with the best leadout man that we have Jasper De Buyst, he had a fracture in the Tour of Turkey just before it was canceled. That’s why he’s not at the Tour. We’re missing him.”
“I’m always looking at everything but it depends on the market and also we don’t need just one leadout because something can happen during the season with illness or crashes. We also have a second sprinter with Arnaud De Lie, so we need to be able to go on different fronts.”
Lotto-Soudal also finds themselves in the middle of a relegation battle with the team’s WorldTour status under threat. The main sponsors have already indicated that they will remain with the team even if the squad drops down a division, and Ewan too has told VeloNews that he has no plans to annul his long-term contract.
“I’m not thinking about this,” Lelangue said when asked about the relegation situation.
“The most important thing for us is to win races and to win stages. If we do this then we’ll see at the end of the season. It’s close for the moment but the most important thing for us is to be at the start of all the nice races.”