Caleb Ewan delivered an unmistakable message that he has arrived as one of the world best sprinters as he completed his Tour de France debut with a prestigious final stage victory on the Champs-Elysees.
The diminutive Australian powerhouse has well and truly arrived among road cycling’s best sprinters.
The day’s of waiting and hoping for a start in the tour are over.
The 25-year-old Ewan revealed he kept a promise he made to himself in Paris eight years ago, that the next time he returned to the Champs-Elysees it would be as winner of the final stage, considered an unofficial world championship by the sprinters.
True to his word, the Lotto Soudal star escaped being blocked and rattled home beside the right-side barriers to edge out Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Italy’s Niccolo Bonifazio (TDE).
“When we rolled onto the Champs-Elysees, I almost had tears in my eyes, it was such a surreal feeling. I can’t believe I just won the stage,” Ewan told cyclingnews.com
Ewan believes he was ready for a Tour de France debut earlier but his previous team, Australian-owned Mitchelton-Scott team, prioritised the overall title quest.
He made up for lost time and ensured a lengthy career in cycling’s grandest tour by winning three stages with his new team, taking time to hit his straps before winning stages 11, 16 and 21.
Not only that, he finished on the podium in every stage where there was a bunched sprint.
Ewan had a good answer when asked if he thought he was now the world’s best sprinter.
“I’ve proved I’m the best sprinter in this year’s Tour de France,” he said.
I have to thank my team … they helped me in every sprint and to get through in every mountain stage, there were no days off for them.
“They always had to bring me back into contention and help me 100 per cent, and they did that all through the Tour.
“I’m really pleased with how they rode.”
Ewan had previously won stages on the other grand tours – the Giro (in 2017) and 2019) and Vuelta a Espana (2015).
Now he is finally on his way to emulating Australian great Robbie McEwen, who won 12 Tour de France stages in his career, including the Champs-Elysees finale in 1999 and 2002.
Ewan was asked about the main differences he found at Belgian-owned Lotto Soudal.
“The principal change is that I’ve really got a lot of freedom with my team,” he said.
“I did a lot of preparation with this team. I did the Giro (d’Italia), which was so important for me because I had not done a Grand Tour for two years.
“That was a good stepping stone, and in my previous team with their GC ambitions I wouldn’t have been able to do that.
“But this team’s focused on stage wins, and that’s ideal for me.”
Lotto Soudal ended with four stage wins, also adding one through Belgian veteran Thomas De Gendt.
Long touted as a potential Tour de France winner during a luckless career, Australia’s Richie Porte finished 11th overall, 12min 42sec behind 22-year-old winner Egan Berbal of Colombia.
The Mitchelton-Scott team enjoyed a good tour with four stage wins as the overall title again eluded them.