Twelve months ago Caleb Ewan had everything to prove after a high-profile switch from Mitchelton-Scott to Lotto Soudal. He arrived at the 2019 Tour Down Under with pressure on his shoulders as he looked to fill the shoes of Andre Greipel, and although he left the WorldTour race without a win, the Australian went on to have a breakthrough season.
He won at the Giro d'Italia and cemented his place as one of the best sprinters in the world by winning three stages during his Tour de France debut. A year on and Ewan returns to the Tour Down Under with Lotto Soudal once more built around his needs.
The difference comes from the fact that Ewan knows that the next few weeks and months will probably not define his season. A stage or two in his home race would, of course, be a welcome way to start the year, but after his incredible exploits last July he will be judged by those lofty standards later in the year.
“It will be really nice to win there, but I’m not going to Australia with as much focus as in previous years,” Ewan said during Lotto Soudal’s winter camp.
"I want to ease into the year a bit more, and I’m not doing nationals or Bay Crits. I think that affects your preparation for the Tour Down Under because if you have a few good races there then you feel a bit better. Instead, I’m going in with no racing and we’ll just see how it goes. If I win it will be great but if I don’t then it doesn’t really matter. A Tour Down Under win isn’t going to change my life now, but it’s still nice to win in front of a home crowd, so I hope that I can win.”
There are several stages at the Tour Down Under that certainly suit Ewan, and given his confidence and experience he could well be the first rider to win on stage 1 and pull on the leader’s jersey. Time will tell on that front, but the 'pocket-rocket' sprinter has learned a great deal over the last year. He took something of a leap of faith by joining Lotto Soudal after a frustrating final year at Mitchelton, but the way he has dealt with pressure and expectations has given him a greater perspective.
“I had a lot of pressure on my coming into the team this time last year," he said. "I have a different pressure now that I have to perform at least as I did last year. That’s going to be hard, but every year is a new challenge, whether it’s to try and perform after a bad year or to try and perform to match the last year. It’s a different pressure now but I much prefer to be in the position now compared to last year.”
Cyclingnews will be bringing you previews, news, features and tech from the professional peloton in Australia leading up to, during and after the race. Here we also share how to live stream the Tour Down Under, no matter your location, with ExpressVPN.