Caleb Ewan let out a roar when he crossed the finish line to claim not only his first UCI win of the season but the first victory in almost one year. The Australian sprinter was the fastest in the hectic bunch sprint finish on stage 1 of the Tour of Oman.
Ewan’s last two presences on top of a UCI podium were at the Van Merksteijn Fences Classic in May 2023, and GP de Fourmies in September 2022.
“I felt good. It’s been maybe seven or eight months since my last victory, and then before that, probably another seven or eight months. So only one win in the last probably year or a year and a half, ” Ewan told flobikes and other media at the finish in Muscat.
“I needed the confidence and I think it’s good that my new team has the confidence as well. So great feeling to start like this.”
The pressure to deliver was building the 11-time Grand Tour stage winner who re-joined Team Jayco-AlUla after a difficult 2023. The year looked promising when the 29-year-old won the Australian Criterium Championship last month but then he was struck by an illness in the lead-up to the WorldTour opener, the Tour Down Under, where his best placing was fourth on stage 1.
Adding to the pressure is the fact that the first Oman stage, a flat 181.5km affair, was the only chance for the sprinters to shine in the race.
“I’ve felt good all year to be honest and in the sprinting now, obviously, everyone’s so good that you really have to get it right every time. And today, we got it right and pulled it off.”
The Tour of Oman is also the first time that Ewan raced with his leadout man Max Walsheid who was brought in from Cofidis to bolster the team’s sprint train. The same squad will be taking on seven-day WorldTour race, Tirreno-Adriatico, in early March. Ewan won a stage at the Italian stage race in 2022.
With a win under his belt, he will focus on the rest of the season, starting with using the hilly stages in Oman to his advantage.
“I said to one of my teammates, I hope I’ll win today because having the weight off my shoulders in the climbs will make it a lot easier. And I think when you ride around with just a bit more confidence and just having that pressure off it’s gonna make it a lot easier. And now the rest of the race I can really focus on going quite deep in a lot of the stages and just kind of build my form.”
“This year I really want to come back to my best and hopefully this is the start of it.”