Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) rode to Pesaro along the coast in Italy with determination, and that is what delivered him the stage eight victory in the Giro d’Italia.
Ewan, after the final right-hander, shot ahead of his rivals Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe).
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“Determination and the help of the team made me a winner today,” the Australian said. “We’ve been trying for seven days to get this win. I’m just so happy to win this stage.”
The final of the stage raised eyebrows. Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale) wrote on Twitter of the dangers in the final of the stage, the longest in this 102nd edition of the Giro at 239km.
Ewan navigated the descent and then, without team-mates left, he rode the wheel’s of the Bora-Hansgrohe train, making sure to be well-placed for the turn at 200 metres remaining.
“I wanted to be first in the last corner but it was still a long way away, so it worked better to get out of Ackermann’s wheel,” he added. “I knew I had a good kick and I went around him.”
Ewan did not use his chest-to-the-stem aerodynamic position that he has become known for, but opted for a more “powerful” position
“Today’s sprint was different, it wasn’t such high speed, it was more about being more powerful, [it’s] harder to be powerful in aerodynamic position – the position becomes more beneficial between 60 and 70kph. We were only sprinting from 200m to go.”
He celebrated his second stage win after his first in 2017, then racing for Orica-Scott. He made the move over the winter after Orica-Scott left him out of its Grand Tour teams, which it insisted building around its classification riders, including Adam and Simon Yates.
“[The win] means a lot, it’s my biggest victory in Lotto-Soudal colours, maybe there is a little bit of added pressure when any rider changes team and has to win – I’ve known from start,” he said.
“Last year was pretty average for me, and it would be bad to have another average year. So far for first part of the season, it’s been the high point of the season, I’ve been close and I’ve had a few wins, but this means a lot.”
Ewan’s last Grand Tour was when he won a stage in the 2017 Giro d’Italia. He began the 2019 Giro because he and the team recognised “a lot of sprint opportunities” in the route.
“It would be good to start here and go for some of the wins – they put a strong team around me to get the victories,” he said.
“The pressure was building every time I didn’t win a stage – I am just happy that I could pay back the team for all that hard work.
“To be back at the Grand Tours and winning, that means a lot to me.”
The Pesaro win confirms Lotto-Soudal’s decision to schedule the 24-year-old for both the Giro and the Tour in 2019. He will likely leave the Giro when the race arrives in the high mountains and back off to be ready again for the Tour.