Lotto-Soudal have confirmed that they have signed Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan from Mitchelton-Scott for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
The 24-year-old has been strongly linked with a move to the Belgian team for some time with his contract at the Australian team coming to an end in 2018.
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The exit of André Greipel from Lotto-Soudal to Fortuneo-Samsic, confirmed last week, leaves space for Ewan to take up the role of lead sprinter within the team.
Ewan has struggled for results this year with Mitchelton-Scott, taking just two wins, though he did place second at Milan-San Remo. He’s found his opportunities for big stage races more scarce this year with the team’s focus on general classification results with Simon Yates, Adam Yates and Esteban Chaves.
Ewan was expecting to make his Tour de France debut in July, having only ridden the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España in his career so far, taking a stage in each in 2017 and 2015 respectively.
But he was left out of the Tour team with Mitchelton-Scott management deciding to go all in behind Adam Yates’ GC challenge. Yates wasn’t able to compete however, and the team had a disappointing Tour in which they missed out on a stage win.
Ewan said he has “nothing but appreciation and respect” for everyone at his current team, but said “I do feel the path Mitchelton Scott are now on is one not suited to me.”
Lotto-Soudal sports manager Marc Sergeant says Ewan will become one of the squads three leaders, with Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot likely to head up Classics and short stage race teams.
“The opportunity to join Lotto-Soudal was for me an important and incredibly exciting one,” Ewan said.
“I think for me the decision to take this path with Lotto-Soudal has been a logical one if you take the emotion out of it, but we have much hard work ahead to make sure it becomes the perfect match.
“I do feel the path Mitchelton-Scott are now on is one not suited to me but I have nothing but appreciation and respect for the riders and entire organisation. I have learnt and experienced so much during the past four years, I have many life-long friends there and I am sincerely grateful to them.”
“With Tim Wellens, Tiesj Benoot and Caleb Ewan, we have now three clear leaders for three different types of races,” Sergeatn said.
“Now it’s a matter of building a team around these riders in order to assist them as best as possible. That’s something we are currently working on.
“I think that the ambitions of Caleb are similar to those of the team. In fact, we are starting from scratch whereby the mix of our experience and his potential should allow us to achieve those goals.
“He is an extremely talented sprinter, so that will become the main focus. Over the years, we will see what he can achieve in certain Classics, but if you finish second in Milan–San Remo 2018, you definitely have the capacity and technical skills.”