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CARCASSONNE, France (VN) – It’s been a brutal Tour de France for Caleb Ewan. No stage wins, a crash, terrible luck and some deep suffering in the mountains have seen the Australian limp into the final rest day.
It’s been a stop-start season for the sprinter with a poor Giro coming off the back of a spring that contained several wins but a bout of illness that took him out of Milan-San Remo.
If the situation looks bleak for Ewan then the picture for Lotto-Soudal doesn’t look too much better with the Belgian team locked in a relegation battle that could end up with the team dropping out of the WorldTour.
If that happened Ewan would potentially be free to annul his current deal and find a new team. There are some caveats to that of course. Timing would be tight due to the UCI registration process and few teams could realistically afford the Australian’s wages. It’s unlikely that he would take a paycut either.
Lotto-Soudal is at least aware of the potential situation.
“It doesn’t change anything. We are committed to winning bike races. The relegation system has been in place for three years now, so we’ve been aware of it since I joined the team. It hasn’t changed the way we go about our business. We’re here to win bike races,” sports director Allan Davis told VeloNews.
“We’re all aware of it. It’s general knowledge,” Davis said when asked about the possibility of Ewan leaving if the team is relegated.
“Everyone is aware of it. I couldn’t see it happening though. I haven’t even thought about it actually. I’m so concentrated and committed to the plan and I’m sure we’ll be fine if we keep on going the way that we are going. At this time of the year there’s still a lot of bike racing to be had, and we’ll just focus on that.”
Davis, himself a former sprinter who won the overall and six stages of the Tour Down Under during his career, has huge sympathy for Ewan at this point. The Australian remains one of the fastest sprinters in the race but his consistent bad luck has been a huge factor for both his confidence and results in grand tours.
“I empathize a lot with him and I feel for him. He’s been coping with it for a while now, and like they say in English, the rough end of the pineapple. He’ll bounce back though, we’ll turn the page and we’ll keep committing. From a sports director’s point of view, I’m really proud of the guys and how they are moving on from each setback. We’re coping it left right and center but it’s about how you deal with it as a group,” he said.
At the end of stage 15 Ewan faced up to the media, just like he has throughout this year’s race. He was asked by the waiting Australian press about how his stage had gone and if his crash on stage 13 was still a factor in his lack of results.
“I don’t think so to be honest. I think it’s just more about poor form at the moment. It’s hard and I was just struggling again today. I tried to get up that last long climb and I got half-way up and then I just didn’t have the legs to keep going,” he said.
“I’ll try and rest as much as possible and then we have a few mountain stages to get through. Then we have two mountain stages to get through and then we’ll target those.”
Australian TV then asked Ewan if he’d enjoyed any highlights in the race. To be fair to Ewan he did actually seem to think about it before giving an honest and fair response.
“Not really,” he said. “No.”