PERENNIAL favourite Caleb Ewan didn’t disappoint in his quest to claim a title at the Australian road championships, blowing a high-quality field apart in the men’s under-23 criterium yesterday.
The 19-year-old had the race all but won several metres out from the Sturt Street finish line, leaving South Australia’s Robert-Jon McCarthy and Queensland’s Alex Wohler fighting for second and third place as he cruised across the paint with arms outstretched.
Ewan was marked out of last year’s criterium, but managed to blow the bunch sprint apart and claim the title he was so obviously disappointed to miss out on in 2013.
“The good thing about being a heavily-marked person is a lot of the fighting goes on behind you,” he said.
“I got to sit where I wanted to for most of the day because a lot of people just let me in.
“It’s not all downside to being the favourite for a race.”
Ewan is one of Australia’s best young prospects, and will join Orica-GreenEDGE on a full professional contract this August.
He entered the criterium in a rich vein of form, coming off the back of a win in the final stage of last week’s Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, despite injuring his hand in a training ride the week prior.
He is also one of the favourites for tomorrow’s under-23 road race on Buninyong’s challenging circuit.
While Ewan was the overall winner of the criterium, the title of most exciting rider went to South Australian Harry Carpenter, who made a solo break that lasted nearly half the race.
At one stage Carpenter had a lead of more than 25 seconds and looked some chance at claiming a shock win after missing out on a gold medal in Wednesday’s time-trial by just two 10ths of a second.
He was swallowed up by the peloton in the last few laps, but finished the race with the mantle of sprint champion.
“Yesterday was tough, being so close to the jersey ... (but) I was overwhelmed on the podium,” he said.
“There was a bit of fire in the belly after yesterday, so I was determined to come out and give it a real crack today.”