A win is a win, right? That’s what the old cycling adage says. Yet for the UCI, the Schwalbe Classic Tour Down Under criterium is not an official race, it doesn’t award UCI ranking points and so is not officially added to a rider’s palmarès.
Caleb Ewan won the Saturday evening criterium for a third time in a row and for the fifth time in his career while riding as part of the Australian national team. It meant a lot to him to win in Australia while riding for his country.
He used his pure speed and sprinting skills in Adelaide to beat Jordi Meeus of Bora-Hansgrohe and fellow Australian Kaden Groves, who was making his debut in Alpecin-Deceuninck colours.
Ewan stayed on the wheels as a number of attacks went clear in the one hour and one lap race, the average speed stayed above 50kph. He made sure he was on the Bahrain Victorious lead-out riding for Cameron Scott during the final lap and then surged down the centre of the road in the finishing straight to hit the line first.
Ewan’s official win total stays at 59, including his five stages at the Tour de France and five wins at the Giro d’Italia, but victory in the criterium had lots of significance for the 28-year-old from Sydney.
“This race doesn’t count towards your wins in the year,” Ewan told Cyclingnews after the podium ceremony in the race village. “It perhaps should do, it’s against a WorldTour field, is the purest form of road sprinting and we were all racing full gas.
“But whatever the record books may say, a win here in Adelaide, so early in the season and before the Tour Down Under, is a good confidence booster.”
For Ewan, who spent a part of the European winter in Australia, it was also confirmation that he has done the hard work in training. Now he knows that he is ready for the Tour Down Under, which starts on Tuesday, and is also ready for the rest of the early season.
His Lotto-Dstny team recently confirmed that Ewan will ride the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the UAE Tour before a shot at Milan-San Remo. His 2022 season wasn’t up to his usual high standards and he failed to win a Grand Tour stage but everything seems to be back on track for 2023.
“It’s the start of the season and so we’re all trying to work out who is going well and perhaps who isn’t,” Ewan explained, revealing the sprinters’ psyche.
“As a sprinter, it’s important to get that momentum going. There are big sprints coming up in the Tour Down Under and now I know my sprint is pretty good. That gives me confidence…