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Caleb Ewan eyes grand tour stage sweep in 2021

Aussie star says talent boom is making Milan-Sanremo too hard for pure sprinters.

Caleb Ewan has already won stages in all three grand tours. Now the Aussie fastman wants to take on the challenge of winning stages in all three in one season.

The Lotto-Soudal star has yet to square his racing calendar with team brass, but if it were up to him, he’ll be racing the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España in succession in 2021.

“My big goal for 2021 is to win stages in all three grand tours in one year,” Ewan said Saturday. “There haven’t been too many people who’ve done it in the history of cycling, so that’s my big goal.”

Ewan, who’s emerged as one of the most efficient sprinters in the bunch since joining Lotto-Soudal in 2019, underscored his goal is to win stages in all three grand tours, not finish all three. He was quick to add that if things don’t go well at the Giro or Tour, he might not take on the Vuelta at the end of the season.

It’s a new challenge for Ewan, who won’t be racing at his traditional opener at the Santos Tour Down Under because the WorldTour race was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. And with the Olympic course being too difficult for his racing style, the grand tour stage-win sweep is something special to aim for.

“Sometimes it seems like a good idea at the beginning of the season, but after the Tour, the thought of riding the bike again can be a bit daunting,” Ewan said. “If I can get through the Giro and the Tour with wins, then I will seriously consider doing the Vuelta.”

Caleb Ewan, Sam Bennett, Wout van Aert, and Peter Sagan battling for the line on stage 11 of the 2020 Tour de France
Caleb Ewan, Sam Bennett, Wout van Aert, and Peter Sagan battling for the line on stage 11 of the 2020 Tour de France. Photo: James Startt

Another challenge? The green jersey at the Tour de France. In his 2019 debut, Ewan finished second to Peter Sagan after he won three stages. In 2020, he was sixth in the points chase with two stage victories, but he was never really chasing the jersey in either edition.

With up to eight sprint stages on tap in the 2021 Tour route, Ewan said he will add a serious push for the green jersey on his to-do list for the season.

“If it’s there, it’s something I will look at,” Ewan told reporters. “There are a lot of sprints in this year’s Tour, and it is something that I will think about. I was waiting for a Tour with a lot of sprints when I won’t have to chase the intermediate sprints, and I can pick up points in the final sprints.”

Since World War II, only three riders have won stages in all three grand tours in one season: Miguel Poblet (1956); Pierino Baffi (1958), and Alessandro Petacchi (2003).

Milano-Sanremo becoming even more challenging

Ewan’s other season highlight remains Milano-Sanremo, the only monument he admits that he’s tailored to win. Ewan’s raced the Italian monument four times, with second in 2018 behind the attacking Vincenzo Nibali.

Long considered the “sprinter’s classic,” Ewan said the increasing level of such riders like Wout van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe is making Milano-Sanremo almost too hard for a pure sprinter.

“San Remo is always a goal of mine. It’s the only monument I can realistically win,” he said. “It’s harder now with riders like van Aert, [Mathieu] van der Poel and Alaphilippe; they go uphill faster than me, and they can still sprint pretty good. Milano-Sanremo is almost becoming out of reach.”

Ewan will travel this weekend to join his teammates at a pre-season training camp in Spain. Typically racing in Australia in what’s summer down there, Ewan was joking this was the first time he’s seen a real winter. If he sticks to his big ambitions in 2021, he’ll be racing straight through spring and summer, and into fall.