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Caleb Ewan relishing sprint rematch with Mark Cavendish

Fast friends in the fast lane: Aussie rocket wants to make up for lost opportunities in 2022.

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Caleb Ewan is keen in 2022 to take it straight to Mark Cavendish, the sprinter who was his role model when the Aussie rocket was climbing up in the sprinter hierarchy.

Last year, the Lotto-Soudal star could only grit his teeth from the injury sidelines as he watched Cavendish dash to four stage wins in the Tour de France.

“It wasn’t hard to watch because Cav was there,” Ewan said. “It was hard for me to watch because I wasn’t there and winning races.”

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After crashing out in stage 3, Ewan could barely bring himself to watch the veteran Quick-Step star reel off win after win and sprint almost unrivaled in the mass gallops.

Cavendish’s last Tour stage win came all the way back in 2016, and many didn’t expect him to be so successful in his return to cycling’s biggest stage.

Ewan says there are no hard feelings between the fast friends in cycling’s spint lane.

“To be honest, I am happy for Cav,” Ewan said in a media call. “I am good friends with him, and as a young rider, I really looked up to him. He was super-dominant when I was coming up, and with me being a sprinter, he was a guy I looked up to.”

Ewan’s sprinting apprenticeship is long gone, and coming into last year’s Tour, Ewan was the five-star favorite in the sprints.

It was Cavendish, the surprising, late-hour addition to the Quick-Step squad filling in for Fabio Jakobsen and Sean Bennett, who was on the second line.

No one expected much from Cavendish. Before a return to the Belgian outfit, he’d only won two races since 2016, but the 36-year-old hit a purple patch during the Tour and reeled off four stage wins. 

Those victories made headlines around the world as the Manxster pulled even with Eddy Merckx for the record number of career Tour stage wins at 34.

“I was really looking forward to racing against him at the Tour de France because as a cycling fan, that would have been cool to watch,” Ewan said.

Setting new challenges in 2022

Team Lotto Soudal's Caleb Ewan of Australia (R) reacts as he falls with Team Bora Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan of Slovakia (L) close to the finish line of the 3rd stage of the 108th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, 182 km between Lorient and Pontivy, on June 28, 2021. (Photo by Christophe Ena / various sources / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOPHE ENA/AFP via Getty Images)
Caleb Ewan and Peter Sagan crashed in stage 3 at the 2021 Tour de France. (Photo: CHRISTOPHE ENA/AFP via Getty Images)

A chance to sprint directly against Cavendish in 2022 provides that extra dash of motivation Ewan brings into a new season where he hopes to make amends.

The 2021 season certainly didn’t go the way Ewan was imagining when he mapped out his ambitious plan to race and win stages in all three grand tours.

Things started off well enough, winning two stages at the Giro d’Italia before pulling the chute to prepare for the Tour. 

Ewan was a victim of a crash in stage 3, when he crossed wheels and took down Peter Sagan with him. Ewan later missed the Vuelta a España as he raced smaller events at the tail end of 2021.

“It wasn’t the year that I had hoped for,” Ewan said of last season. “I still won six races, including two Giro stages, but it wasn’t what I expected. To be honest, there isn’t much I can take out of last year.”

To make matters worse, at least from a sprinter’s point of view, Ewan was watching another rival, in this case Cavendish, dash to four stage wins at the Tour. In any sprinter’s mind, those victories should have and could have been his.

“I wanted to beat him, like I want to beat anyone else,” Ewan said.

“I hope we will have the chance to sprint against each other, but I also hope that I am the one coming out on top.”

Ewan’s already confirmed that he will not try to repeat the challenge of targeting stage wins across all three grand tours in 2022.

Instead, a return to the Giro and Tour are at the heart of his calendar. He’s not discounting a chance to race and win on a challenging worlds course on home roads this fall.

A run at Milano-Sanremo, the Italian monument where he’s twice finished second, is the first major date circled on his calendar.

So when will Cavendish and Ewan square off for the first time?

Ewan is off to a fast start after winning a stage during his season debut at the Saudi Tour. Cavendish, meanwhile, will open his 2022 at the Tour of Oman.

Their calendars looked to coincide for their first major clash at the UAE Tour later this month. The Giro will also be another highlight for both riders, perhaps even more so for Cavendish who is not guaranteed a spot at the Tour.

As Ewan said, the matchup between the two sprinting aces will make for some great viewing.

Don’t miss it.