In recent months whenever talk has turned to pro-cycling (or, more accurately, I steer it towards the subject) I find myself talking about Caleb Ewan.
I’m not being original by pointing out he’s a man with a bright future – plenty of people far more clued up than me have already brought this to the world’s attention – but I’ve been conversationally nailing my colours to the mast with this guy.
Anyone who knows anything about pro-cycling will tell you that Caleb Ewan knows his way around a sprint at the end of a bike race. He was under-raced by his team (Orica Green Edge) last year – he’s only 21, after all – and many of his race wins were at a level a couple of notches below World Tour level, but still – he was prolific.
As someone with a tendency towards erratic pro-cycling predictions, I already have him down as the 2016 winner of: several stages of the Giro d’Italia; all of the sprinter friendly Spring Classics; the final sprint along the Champs Elysees at the Tour de France; the Australian national lottery; and “I’m a celebrity get me out of here”.
I may be getting slightly carried away, but imagine how pleased (and vindicated, which is even better) I was when he won the People’s Choice Criterium recently – the prelude to the first big race of the season, the Tour Down Under.
“I told you, didn’t I?” I said to people, smugly, after his (let’s be honest, fairly predictable) win.
But my confidence in Ewan being the next big think is less scientific than performance stats. When I saw him win Stage 5 of the Vuelta Espana last season I sat up and said, “who’s that guy?!”
He looks different, and does it differently to the others. He’s small, and incredibly low on the bike, and looks like he was born to ride it quickly. To my even semi-trained eye, in a pack of seriously good professional bike racers, he stands out.
Which is impressive for a guy who’s 5’5″.
The modern cliché would be to say he had the X-factor and if I were a better writer I’d find, where many others have failed, a better way of describing it. But that’s it. You can’t quite put your finger on what it is. But it is.
That’s for sure.
He might not sweep all before him this season – Orica Green Edge seem keen to treat him like the rare commodity he is by not flinging him in completely at the deep end – but he’ll definitely win stuff. He’s sure to go well at the Tour Down Under in the absence of Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel, and Mark Cavendish, and from there who knows.
Just to maintain my unscientific approach to pro-cycling analysis there’s also his name. If ever a name suggested super-stardom surely it’s Caleb Ewan. It’s cool and modern, and very much “…race winner Caleb Ewan”.
Admittedly ‘name theory’ hasn’t always served me well. I remember when Peter Sagan popped up on everyone’s radar and I thought he wouldn’t really get anywhere.
“His name just doesn’t trip of the tongue”, I thought. “Peter Sagan..? I don’t even really know how to pronounce it. Nah, not for me”.
But Caleb Ewan? He not only looks like a winner, he sounds like one.