Australian sprint star Caleb Ewan made up for his team’s tactical error on stage one by claiming stage two of the Tour Down Under with an incredible burst of speed and power.
Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) grabbed the overall leader’s ochre jersey on Wednesday as he narrowly beat two-time defending champion Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) on the uphill finish into Stirling.
It was a repeat of the pair’s one-two finish as teammates on the TDU’s last visit to the same town in the Adelaide Hills two years ago.
Fellow Australian rider Nathan Haas (Cofidis) was third across the line.
Ewan has already had a rollercoaster week in South Australia after being dubbed the world’s best sprinter by Australian cycling great Robbie McEwen.
He claimed the Schwalbe Classic criterium event on Sunday and then missed out on stage one, later conceding he was caught too far back to challenge the leaders in a sprint finish on stage one.
But his Lotto-Soudal teammates executed their plan perfectly on stage two.
“There have been plenty of times where we stuffed it up and we haven’t got the result we wanted, but we’ve always seemed to bounce back,” Ewan said.
“We had a good debrief last night on what we can improve and the boys came out much better today and they really delivered me really well.
My team were always there keeping me out of trouble and keeping me in a good position on that last long climb. That’s basically what I need, I need the easiest ride possible and they gave me that.’’
A big crash in the final three kilometres into Stirling took out a host of riders, among them Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates and Italian star Elia Viviani (Cofidis).
“I was ahead of them all, but I could hear them,” Ewan said.
“It’s never a nice sound hearing crunching carbon, but luckily I was in front of it.
“I think everyone’s quite nervous because it’s one of those finishes where a lot of guys sit up.”
Stage one winner Sam Bennett is tied with Ewan on time, but the Australian takes the ochre jersey from his Irish rival based on placement.
Impey is one second behind as he chases overall honours for an unprecedented third straight year.
The race was just the third that Ewan’s infant daughter Lily had been present for, and resulted in a third win.
But Ewan would need more than a good luck charm to win on the tough climber’s stage at Paracombe, where he will take it easy rather than attempting to mount a challenge.
There are two further stages he will target that are suited to sprinters, with finishes at Murray Bridge (stage four) and Victor Harbor (stage five).