Three days after arriving in Adelaide from Europe, German rider Roger Kluge played a crucial role as Ewan won the People’s Choice Classic on Sunday for the second-successive year.
World champion Peter Sagan was third behind Bora-Hansgrohe teammate Sam Bennett and the win is a major confidence boost for Ewan ahead of the Tour Down Under, which starts on Tuesday.
Orica-Scott recruited Kluge as a key leadout rider for Ewan, the best sprinter in this year’s Tour field.
At 192cm and 83kg, the big German would not be out of place in an AFL team.
Developing a sprint train is an inexact science in cycling, given the split-second decisions taken in the last few kilometres before a high-speed bunch finish.
“Obviously it takes time – I reckon it will take almost half a year to really work each other out,” Ewan had said on Friday.
But on Sunday, Kluge already showed his worth by helping propel Ewan to an easy win.
“I’m really happy it started off well with Roger,” Ewan said.
“It was the first race I have raced with him and he dropped me off perfectly, right at the front, and that was the first time I had to touch the wind.
“I don’t think it usually happens like that (working so well together in the first race) but all I had to do was follow him.
It was Ewan’s third win this month, after taking out the third race of the Bay Classic series and then his successful Australian criterium championship defence.
Team director Matt White said the start of the year is an audition for Ewan, who wants to make his debut this March at the Milan-San Remo classic.
White said Ewan must show he can handle the rigours of the particularly long race and so far his form has been outstanding.
Sunday’s Classic was also a great race for Australian Ben O’Connor, who is making his WorldTour debut this season.
He made a solo break for well more than half of the 22-lap, 50km race and was only caught four laps from the finish.
And Bennett was pinching himself after Sagan, who is building his early-season form, worked for the Irishman in the sprint finish.
“Peter Sagan is leading me out? I was shaking,” Bennett said.
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