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Caleb Ewan on Dylan Groenewegen: ‘I’ve welcomed him back into the bunch’

Aussie star said he will watch with interest as Dutch rival joins his former team at BikeExchange-Jayco in 2022.

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Caleb Ewan says there’s no hard feelings seeing Dylan Groenewegen back in the rough and tumble world of the bunch sprints.

In 2020, the Dutch sprinter provoked a horrific crash that barged Fabio Jakobsen into the barriers in the Tour de Pologne. Groenewegen eventually served a ban and returned to racing last May.

Ewan said he sees a different rider than the chest-thumping brawler of before.

“I speak to him in the bunch, and I think he’s come back as a bit of a different person,” Ewan said Saturday. “He seems a bit more humble now. I’ve had some good chats with him in the bunch. He also became a dad when he suspended, and maybe that changed him a little bit as well.”

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Last year, Ewan wondered what kind of reception Groenewegen would see and expect from his direct competitors in the high-speed and dangerous bunch sprints.

Jakobsen was nearly killed after striking the finish line arch when barriers gave way after he was pushed into fencing along the race course.

Ewan said some of his comments from a year ago were “taken out of context,” and added he did not have a problem sprinting against him this past season when Groenewegen returned to the races.

“He served his time for doing something that was wrong, and I am sure he was very sorry for what he did, and I guess he would have never hoped for what happened to have happened,” Ewan said in a media call Saturday.

“When I’ve been with him in the gruppetto, we always chat,” he said, before quickly adding. “I have no problem with him, but like any of the sprinters, I want to beat them all anyway.

“I would not say there is a ‘brotherhood of sprinting,’ we all want to beat each other,” he said. “I feel like I’ve welcomed him back into the bunch. I don’t know if everyone else has … There’s no problem between Dylan and I.”

Ewan, who enters his fourth season at Lotto-Soudal with what will be a better lead-out train for the sprints, said he will be watching with interest as Groenewegen joins BikeExchange-Jayco for 2022.

Ewan turned pro with the Aussie-backed team, but left after the 2018 season after the team put more emphasis on the GC and reduced his support in the major races.

“It will be interesting to see how he goes at Mitchelton [BikeExchange – ed],” said Ewan, before asking if that was the correct name of the team. “I didn’t have a great experience in the last few years there as a sprinter because they were developing more into a GC team. But they had a pretty average season last year, so they are looking for someone to get them a few wins next season.”

Busy 2022: Milano-Sanremo, Giro, Tour, worlds

Caleb Ewan won stage 7 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia
Caleb Ewan won two stages in the 2021 Giro d’Italia. (: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

It will be a busy season for Ewan in 2022, regardless of who he’s racing against.

Ewan confirmed he will not try equaling his target of last season of winning stages in all three grand tours, saying the focus instead will be on the Giro-Tour double ahead of preparing for a run at the world title on home roads.

The demanding course in Australia is not ideal for his characteristics, but he vows he will be there with ambitions to win.

“It’s harder than I would have hoped,” Ewan said of the worlds route. “It’s something within my capabilities. I will have to be going very, very good to be able to win there.”

Ewan will debut at the Saudi Tour and then the UAE Tour ahead of a busy spring that includes Tirreno-Adriatico, some of the Flemish classics including Gent-Wevelgem, and Milano-Sanremo.

“I want to [Sanremo] some time in my career,” said Ewan, who’s twice been second. “At Milano-Sanremo, you really need luck on your side, and the two times I’ve been second, I’ve been unlucky. Let’s hope it’s a normal, small group sprint. They say it’s the easiest to finish, but the hardest to win, and that is definitely the case.”

Ewan will race both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, and confirmed he will not finish the Giro, saying it’s too hard to pull off when he’s expected to win stages at both races.