MEN'S UNDER 23 RACE
BALLARAT - Rising Australian cycling star Caleb Ewan will make his Tour Down Under debut brimming with confidence after his second under-23 national title.
The 19-year-old rode a smart race and then predictably outsprinted his rivals in a small lead group to win the 132.6-kilometre under-23 road race yesterday at Buninyong, near Ballarat.
It followed his dominating win on Thursday night in the under-23 nationals criterium. Ewan went into the two races as the rider to beat and he withstood plenty of pressure to take out the titles.
''It's really special . . . this is my last under-23 national title, so to get both the wins, it's such a good feeling,'' he said.
Ewan is a once-in-a-generation talent who will join top Australian team Orica-GreenEDGE in August.
But before he has a final year of under-23 racing, the New South Wales rider will make his WorldTour debut from January 19 to 26 at the Tour Down Under in Adelaide.
Ewan will race for the UniSA composite team at the tour and go up against world-class sprinters such as German duo Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittle.
His NSW coach, Brad McGee, said Ewan would not be another shy rookie going to Adelaide to gain some top-level experience.
''He's cool and calm on the outside, but underneath he's just a furnace of ambition,'' Ewan said.
''One of his attributes is he knows how to control that.
''He'll go in there wanting to box on with them and show himself.
''He's not going to be complacent.''
One of the most exciting aspects of Ewan's boundless potential is that he is a sprinter who can also climb.
No one is quite sure what sort of rider he will become.
He finished fourth in last year's world championships under-23 road race on a hilly circuit.
The Buninyong course is also a hilly 10.2km circuit and Ewan played a smart game of cycling poker as he battled cramps near the finish.
After bridging the gap to the lead group on the second-last of 13 laps, Ewan resisted several attacks on the final climb as his rivals desperately tried to shake him.
Once he survived the last climb, the result was a foregone conclusion.
Robert Power finished second and fellow West Australian Bradley Linfield was third.
''The whole climb of the last lap, I was cramping,'' Ewan said.
''I was trying to just keep as composed as I could so no one knew I was suffering.
''If they did, they would attack me more.''