RIDE #62 features two riders on the cover. Caleb and Cadel. Both are stars of Australian cycling. At least one has the potential to be, the other had the potential… and realised it. Inside the magazine we tell the story of Caleb Ewan’s pending arrival in the pro peloton in a series of portraits about the ‘Class of 2013’. He’ll officially graduate to the WorldTour in October 2014 with his first full-time season coming up in 2015. Since 2011, however, the young man has been a feature of several articles in RIDE, both in print and online.
Here is a summary of the articles from the past on a potential star of cycling.
2013: Story of the cover (RIDE #62)
Between editions, RIDE 62 and 63, Caleb Ewan has so far won six of the 10 races he’s started… and there’s a month in production still ahead. He is the now the national criterium champion (under-23) and national road race champion (under-23).
Below is the opening to the feature on stars of the future.
Class of 2013: onward and upwards
By Rob Arnold
– From understudy to professional –
Caleb Ewan isn’t a name as familiar as Cadel Evans. After years of writing about cycling, the fingers naturally float over the keyboard towards the obvious Ca… spelling: ‘Cadel’ still comes up often – as it has done for almost 20 years. That’s the rider with the name of an explorer who covered uncharted roads, at least as far as Australian cycling was concerned. He did what he set out to do: win the biggest races in his sport. And now there’s a second incarnation of a Ca… name: ‘Caleb’. He’s only 19. He’s a racer who many believe will be the next star from his country. He’s mapped out his future and by the end of 2014 he will be clad in Orica-GreenEdge colours.
His is a career that’s only just beginning. And yet he’s on the cover of this magazine because he’s got a bright future.
“If it goes to plan it should start after the worlds,” Ewan said about the terms of his first pro contract. “I’m hoping to do the Tour of Beijing as my first race with the team.”
Beyond that he’s happy to listen to the wealth of advice coming his way. He will continue to train and race the way he has done since deciding that cycling is what he does for a job. Some of the stories of his exploits as a junior have already been told in RIDE. (Scan the QR-code to find a summary of the posts about Ewan on ridemedia.com.au.) According to many, success is his destiny while others warn about the consequences of pressure being applied too early.
“It’s so easy for young athletes to believe the hype and lose sight of reality,” said Robbie McEwen, who will be one of a team of advisors for Ewan during his formative years as a professional. The former rider now acts as a consultant for his former team. In January 2012, at the age of 17, the rookie won two Bay Series criteriums; it was the beginning of McEwen’s final season as a pro and already he could see what potential there was but he’s wary. “He’s a good kid and a big talent, but there are too many people pissing in his pocket for his own good at the moment.”
Ewan, according to McEwen, has enormous “potential” – but “The Big P” is what needs to be reiterated otherwise it becomes pressure, and that can stifle results.
This discussion took place on the day the photoshoot with Evans had been arranged. And McEwen agreed that it was a logical choice to put the two Australians on the cover. Caleb and Cadel. Ewan and Evans.
“I don’t think he deserves a solo cover yet,” said McEwen before capitulating after some minor editing in his mind. “It’s as simple as the title and what that says. It should be a question: ‘Is Caleb the future?’ As opposed to a statement, ‘He is the future.’”
What comes of Caleb’s career only time will tell but the rider himself has been preparing for the prospect of riding his bike well into his 30s, just like Cadel is still doing.
On the day of the photo session, the pair were at ease. It was effectively the middle of the official off-season: the rare moment in a year when there has been no racing for weeks and there’s quite a wait for the next competition. November, the month when old-school riders used to eat, drink and be merry. Not anymore. “I’ve been back on the bike for weeks,” grinned Evans as flashes of light filled in the shadows on his face. Back in Australia for 10 days, preparation for his 13th season as a full-time road cyclist was well under way.
His experiences as a cyclist since his teenage years are well documented. Most know the story for it’s Cadel Evans who has put cycling on the map in Australia. Other riders set precedents but Evans changed how the sport was seen in his homeland. Victory in the Tour de France does that. He’ll be 37 next February and even his team believes it’s time to move on from the race he’s obsessed about since 2005.
The Giro d’Italia is his main priority in a season that will begin in Australia with a return to the Tour Down Under. It’s even possible that Evans will skip the Tour de France… but he seems to take that decision by his team in his stride. Been there, done that… etc.
For Ewan, a new adventure awaits and Evans had some advice for the young man and those following his progress. “I don’t think fans of cycling should expect much of Caleb. I think, first of all, we should watch him with interest and see if he can apply his abilities. He’s been very successful in the under-23s, as he showed in the Tour de l’Avenir and world championships. There are new races, new riders, new competition – the first process should be to learn from his team-mates and competitors.”
Ewan could have become a team-mate of Evans in 2014. BMC was one of several teams that were vying for his signature. “We went through the pros and cons of all the offers,” explained Caleb about the decision to join the Orica-GreenEdge team in 2015, after a stint as a stagiaire. “Obviously BMC and Sky are two of the world’s biggest teams but it’s not always the best option for a young guy who is eager to try and win. This way, it works perfectly; I can finish my under-23 days with the Jayco-AIS WorldTour Academy and it will lead me into GreenEdge much better than if I was going to go to another team.”
So Cadel, back to Robbie’s question, is Caleb the future?
“He’s got the mindset of a hard worker and an ambitious rider,” concluded Evans in his appraisal of Ewan. “If he’s learning and racing with his normal ambition, his results will come automatically. But to set out to try and win races or achieve particular goals early in his career… I don’t know if that’s necessary in his first year.”
– By Rob Arnold
Ewan on the 2013 world championships
During production of RIDE #62, the world road race was contested. Caleb Ewan finished fourth. Below is a transcript of that exchange.
It recognises a loss but there are many victories ahead for this young man.
His success at the national championships is as good an excuse as any to revisit some dialogue about racing with a rider who we are going to be reading a lot more about in the future.
* * * * *
RIDE: Let’s jump to the road race at the world championships. Yours was on the Friday and I bet by the Sunday you were really grateful you raced early…
“Oh yeah! It was pretty terrible weather [for the elite men’s race on the Sunday]. We had good conditions in Florence; it was a bit muggy and hot but aside from that it was good.”
RIDE: Matej Mohoric… I bet you can pronounce his name better than me. He’s a bit like your nemisis already, isn’t he? [The Slovenian relegated Ewan to second place in the junior road race at the 2012 worlds, and won the under-23 title in 2013.]
“Yeah, nah… I don’t know how to pronounce it either.
“We’re completely different riders but when it comes to the worlds we’re usually pretty close. He was at the Tour de l’Avenir and he got second in two stages there; he was going pretty well in France.
“I didn’t really hear about him much during the year though so I didn’t know what to expect of him but I always knew that he was going to come out and be strong at the worlds. If he got the opportunity, he was always going to take it. And he did.”
RIDE: He won it, so he was obviously going well. He was better than everyone else on the day – but you had your plan: you had to follow wheels and just hope that it came back together for a sprint. There wasn’t much in it at the end [only 13 seconds between Mohoric and the bunch…]. Even then there were two guys in the middle so you had to get the ‘chocolate medal’. Is it worse to get fourth than, say, 50th…?
“Aaah. Well, there were the two guys up the road: so the who won, and the South African [Louis Meintjes] and then, with a kilometre to go and American [Nathan Brown] attacked and no one was going to chase him. I was like, ‘I can’t just sit here and let them ride away when we could easily catch him.’ And I waited. And I waited a bit more. And no one was doing anything, so I started sprinting from about 600 [metres] to go. We caught the American just before the line and then the Norwegian guy [Sondre Enger] passed me.
“I’d prefer to do that than sit there and win the bunch kick but have just let the American go and get third. If I’d done that, I’d never have known…”
RIDE: Afterwards, what did you have to say to Damien Howson. He did an enormous amount of work.
“Yeah, he was so strong. He had done all the time trial training and then won the TT gold medal earlier that week… and he was pretty impressive still in the road race. I always saw him on the front driving it, bringing back breaks… and it’s hard for me to follow him because he’s a good climber so I can’t really sit on him in the bunch and rely on him.
“If he finds himself out of position he can just sprint up around the bunch and get into a good position, while I have to find a good position and try and hold it. Strive not to lose position. I’m not good enough a climber to do what he was doing.
“I didn’t really expect to be there at the end, to be honest. That’s how hard it was.”
RIDE: So the benefit for you was having the long descent in the run to the finish line – is that how it worked out for you? What gave you the option to be sprinting for a medal?
“I think the key for me being there at the end was just holding a good position all the time.
“Especially on the second climb, I was always a bit tired after the long one. Then, going down the descent into the smaller one there was a right-hand turn and if you were further back than 10 riders, you’d basically start that climb nearly at a standstill. You’d then have to sprint up it. If you were in the first 10, you’d have a good run-in to the bottom and you could carry some speed up it.
“I think the guys who were out of position all the time were the ones who were always chasing their tails. And that wore them down towards the end.”
RIDE: In your division the worlds can become a super focus of the season. Was it all that it was cracked up to be for you?
“I might have been a bit disappointed if I’d based my whole season around that one race but I had a few goals during the season. I got to Europe and won a few of the early one-day races that we did; at Tour de l’Avenir I won stages… and that means a lot to me. If I could change the seven wins that I had this year for the one world championships, I’d probably keep the seven because for me to keep going well, I need to keep winning.
“I think that’s what really got me there towards the end: I kept succeeding through the year and I didn’t really die off at all.”
RIDE: Your original synopsis of your strengths as a bike rider – “a climbing sprinter” – is that fading now and you’re accepting that you’re “a sprinter”?
“Ah, yeah. Pretty much. That course was hard enough that you had to be something of a climber to get around it time and time again. A pure, pure sprinter wouldn’t have gotten over it, I don’t think. Some of the climbers didn’t even get over it.”
RIDE: Let’s just talk about this ‘next wave’. You’re one of the leaders of this new generation of riders who are coming out of Australia and succeeding on the world stage. You’ve had a good look at other guys in your team, for example. Jean-François Quenet would tell me that Jack Edwards is the next ‘Big One’. I wonder if Alex Morgan might be the next star. Dave Sanders tells me it’s going to be Bradley Lindfield… who is the pick of the group in your mob according to you?
“Out of those ones who you’ve just named, I’d say Brad Lindfield. I think Jack Edwards has definitely got the potential but he might not be ready for the road just yet. The same with Alex Morgan.
“Alex has been going pretty well here in Australia but he just needs to develop a bit more. I’d be interested to see how he goes in Europe. He’s really strong but being strong alone isn’t the only key factor you need to be a good rider in the big bunches.”
RIDE: I remember after we met, I spoke with a few of your peers at the track world championships in Melbourne [April 2012]. Let’s just say that they were a little bit… ah, dubious about some of your tactics, that you would look for holes that didn’t exist. Are you still riding like that?
“Ah. Well, if the holes didn’t exist, then I wouldn’t get through them. Put it that way.”
RIDE: I was talking about this with Brad McGee the other day and he said, “That’s because Caleb is a bike racer and others are just bike riders…” is that how you see it?
“Ah, yeah. I mean that’s probably what separates me from the rest: I do what it takes in a race to win. I mean, if it was dangerous then there’d be people crashing around me all the time, but there’s not. So I don’t see it as being that dangerous.
“I don’t know – it’s a little bit annoying when people say things like that but I don’t really mind. That’s how they see it. They can race how they want to race but I’ll race how I want to race.”
RIDE: You understand the politics of cycling well enough to know that you can’t piss off your rivals at every opportunity.
“Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if I piss off all my rivals. It’s just racing.
“I know what they mean: I go though gaps and stuff that a normal person wouldn’t go through… but if you hesitate all the time you’re not going to win races. And in a big bunch sprint – even in the pros – you’re going to see riders doing stuff that make you go, ‘Oooh, probably shouldn’t have done that…’ That’s what they do to win. If you just play it safe all the time, then you’re probably not going to win many races. You have to take a few risks. If the risk is going through a little gap, then maybe some times you have to do it.”