On 10 September 2013, RIDE spoke with Caleb Ewan to find out about his future as a pro cyclist. He’s only 19 and is only in a rush when he’s on the bike. He’s a racer who loves to win. The contract negotiation phase of his career, he believes, is best left to those who know what they’re doing.
Six week ago, he wasn’t sure what the future held. Between our interview with him after the Tour de l’Avenir and his debut as an under-23 rider at the world championships, however, he and a small group of advisors have mapped out a schedule that will see him race in Orica-GreenEdge colours as part of the WorldTour peloton in 2015. If he has things his way, it may even happen a few months earlier than that… but only after he’s tended to business with his Jayco-AIS WorldTour Academy team of 2013 and 2014.
The Australian team lured the young sprint specialist in by presenting him with a package that suits his characteristics. And Ewan fast-tracked the negotiation phase in favour of signing a contract that gives him piece of mind, a small retainer for next year, and – ultimately, he hopes – a lead-out train that will allow him to continue doing what he’s been doing in recent years: win bike races.
A decision on his future
21 October 2013
– By Rob Arnold
“There were a few teams that we really considered and GreenEdge was going to be the best option,” Ewan told RIDE a few days after he signed the contract.
“The way I’m heading later in my career, I’ll be a sprinter and GreenEdge is sort of a sprint-based team and I think I’ll have the best opportunities there out of all the other teams.”
“If it goes to plan it should start after the worlds next year. I’m hoping to do the Tour of Beijing [in 2014] as my first race with the team.”
Ewan has already been a world champion, in the omnium as a junior (in 2011). He was also the runner-up in the junior (ie. under-19) road race at the worlds in Valkenburg (in 2012). And he was fourth in the under-23 world championship road race in Florence last month.
It’s in the green-and-gold that he’s picked up some of his best results but the hope was to wear a rainbow jersey in 2014, a season he expected would be his last before turning professional. Although the circuit in Florence was one of the toughest for a world championship in many years, the confident sprinter said good positioning in the peloton helped keep him in contention for a medal. Ultimately, he scored the so-called ‘chocolate medal’, missing out on winning the bunch sprint because he launched his final bid for honours with an sprint effort that began over 600 metres before the finish line.
The rainbow jersey can wait. But he’s not giving up on it yet.
“I think it’d be good to win,” he said of what should be his last under-23 race: the world championships in Richmond, Virginia next September. “It’s not something that I’m going to be too devastated about it I don’t win.” He paused before adding, without a hint of irony or ego: “I’d much prefer to win an elite world title.”
Clearly Ewan expects big things from himself even before he’s graduated to the professional ranks.
“I really wanted to do it this year so that I could wear the rainbow jersey next year but it didn’t happen. Ah well, it’s all good…”
In our interview from 10 September, he admitted frankly that he was willing to wait before signing a professional contract. “I don’t want to go pro next year so there’s no real rush for me to sign a contract,” he explained. “And hopefully I can get a few more good results before I sign a contract. I really don’t know yet.”
He wouldn’t even race again before a contract was offered but already he has shown enough to convince Orica-GreenEdge that he’s not only a worthwhile investment but a rider who should be enlisted well in advance of his tenure with the squad actually starting.
There was plenty of speculation. Every post we’ve put on RIDE’s Facebook page about success from Ewan is met with commentary about possible pro teams. He’s raced a Cervélo in the past, so some linked him with Garmin-Sharp. He’s worn Saxo Bank and Orica-GreenEdge gloves… which offered other hints. But ultimately, it was a deal that was brokered by Jason Bakker – a manager from Geelong who also looks after Cadel Evans – that effectively united him with the senior version of the feeder team he’s been racing with in 2013.
“Obviously the GreenEdge thing comes from me being in the Jayco-AIS WorldTour academy team. We get all the bikes and whatever from that program,” he said in September. “If that’s the path I take, I don’t know yet to be honest.”
Despite being adamant about his uncertainty, it has long been obvious that teams are interested in this prodigious talent.
The manager of one French WorldTour team was desperate to speak to Ewan before the worlds in Florence. By then it was too late. In October 2013, the young man was presented with an offer at the right time by the right team with the right terms. And he accepted it.
“There’s been a bit of talk about it,” said Ewan in September about even committing to a pre-contract: a retainer with a team for a season when he doesn’t even race in those colours, but he was so confident that he knocked back offers that others would have signed in an instant.
“I don’t know if I really want to lock myself into something now or just wait,” he said. “If I keep going the way I am, then I shouldn’t have a problem going pro so there’s no real rush to sign anything really.”
* * * * *
All that contradicts what eventually transpired in the days leading up to competition in Florence. There were several deciding factors for Ewan to select Orica-GreenEdge over other enticing offers.
“BMC and Sky were the main ones that I had to consider,” said Ewan about the process of elimination. AG2R La Mondiale was also furiously trying to figure out who the best person to speak to about the young Australian was, but by then it was too late.
Ewan is from the NSW Southern Highlands, where former Saxo Bank directeur sportif Brad McGee lives. The pair have worked together in the past and continue to do so because of their connection with the NSW Institute of Sport – where McGee is a coach/manager and Ewan has been a scholarship holder.
When he first decided on trying his luck in Europe, Ewan based himself in Angers and accepted guidance from one of RIDE’s valued contributors Jean-François Quenet. The Frenchman has helped a number of Australian professionals in their formative years, including McGee, Baden Cooke, Matt Wilson and Simon Gerrans. Many others have relied on Quenet for advice and that trend hasn’t abated, even with the latest graduate from the amateurs to the professional ranks. (The next big star, according to Quenet, is Jack Edwards… remember the name.)
For the two-and-a-bit year deal, however, it was Bakker who ironed out the details in the Orica-GreenEdge deal. “I spoke to the teams a little bit and told them what I felt and all that kinda stuff,” said Ewan, “but at the end of the day [Bakker] did most of it.”
And so it will be that one of the most anticipated Australian pro cyclist recruits has gone to the team that Gerry Ryan built.
“BMC and Sky are both so focussed on GC riders,” said Ewan about why he whittled down the selection to the Australian WorldTour squad. “Cadel is obviously still going really well and Tejay is coming through for BMC and you can see that, for the next few years, they’re going to be focussing on GC. With Sky as well: they have Froome and Wiggo and even Richie who can all do the GC so it’s not like I could see any time soon when they’re going to actually start working for a sprinter at all.”
The reasons are many and the fact that the Jayco-AIS WorldTour Academy has supported Ewan so well in 2013 certainly helped sway the decision.
Exactly where he’ll settle when in Europe is yet to be decided. He’s enjoyed time in France and Italy but also recognises that Spain is where many of his future colleagues will be based. But there’s time to consider all that while he goes about the final season of his apprenticeship.
Much has already been written about young Caleb but a lot more is yet to come. He’s in it for the long haul, not just a quick money grab and a rush for glory.
“There are bonuses for some races but for the time being, as a young guy, it’s not so much of a problem,” he concluded about the contract with his future team. “I can focus on progressing up to where I want to be and the financial side of things should look after itself.”
* * * * *
RIDE Media publishes both the Official Tour de France Guide (Australian Edition) as well as RIDE Cycling Review, a quarterly magazine all about cycling.
RIDE Cycling Review is now available in a digital format via Zinio.