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Ewan chooses Giro over Milan-San Remo

ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — There’s no stopping pint-sized Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge), who book-ended the Santos Tour Down Under with two stage victories. But Ewan won’t be racing Milano-San Remo, at least not this year.

Orica sport director Matt White said it’s too early for the 5-foot-4 Ewan to handle the rigors of the nearly 300km-long San Remo. Instead, the team is steering him for a debut at the Giro d’Italia in May.

“It’s too early for him to do San Remo. Besides, we have the favorite with ‘Bling,’” White said, referring to Michael Matthews, third last year. “That’s why we left him out of this race last year, because he wasn’t ready. The Giro is the big goal for the spring.”

The 21-year-old Aussie sensation put the peloton on notice this week, winning the People’s Choice Critérium as well as two stages in the Tour Down Under in spectacular fashion. Although none of the peloton’s major sprinters made the trip to Australia, Ewan made easy work of the sprinters who did, including the likes of Mark Renshaw (Dimension Data), Wouter Wippert (Cannondale), and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo).

“This gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season,” Ewan said after his stage win on Sunday. “It gives me confidence to see the team working for me. I can’t wait for the rest of the season.”

Many are already comparing Ewan to Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data). The second-year pro has explosive acceleration and sprints in an aerodynamic tuck reminiscent of Cavendish. But he shows maturity beyond his 21 years. Without a doubt, he’s the most exciting sprinter in a generation.

“Caleb is a big talent, and you could see he is very savvy for a young rider,” said TDU winner Simon Gerrans. “He’s earned his right to be here. I’m excited to see what he can do the next few seasons.”

Ewan has already won seven races in the Australia calendar, including the national criterium title. He will square off next week with Cavendish in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, but the lumpy course likely won’t deliver a mass gallop.

Cannondale sport director Fabrizio Guidi, a former sprinter who won stages in the Giro and Vuelta a España, said he expects Ewan to be cycling’s next major sprinter.

“He’s already a great sprinter, and he’s only 21,” Guidi said. “I am expect him to be the top sprinter over the next 10 years. You can see he has explosive power and he’s very dynamic. It’s just the beginning.”

It will be interesting to see how Ewan stacks up against the likes of Cavendish, Marcel Kittel (Etixx – Quick-Step), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), and André Greipel (Lotto –Soudal). Some question whether relatively sprite Ewan will be able to handle the bump-and-shove tussles of the major sprints, but he doesn’t seem intimidated by the prospect.

“I know there were not the best four or five top sprinters here. I cannot wait to race against them,” Ewan said. “The Tour Down Under is too hard now for them to come all the way down here. There are only two opportunities for sprints, so maybe in the future, they can give us sprinters more chances, and we will see bigger names.”

Ewan will race Tirreno-Adriatico ahead of his Giro debut in May. At last year’s Vuelta, he beat Peter Sagan and John Degenkolb in his grand tour debut, so Ewan is champing at the bit to test his speed against the best.

“Ewan wants to race everything, but it’s better to go slow,” White said. “I’d rather be holding guys back, than giving them a kick up the bum.”