Caleb Ewan in the Giro d’Italia for the long haul alongside debutant Luke Plapp

Australian pair to lead Jayco AlUla alongside Eddie Dunbar, with Ewan ‘back to his best numbers’ and Plapp nonplussed by GC bid

Clock00:00, Saturday 4th May 2024
Caleb Ewan during the Giro d'Italia team presentation

© Getty Images

Caleb Ewan during the Giro d'Italia team presentation

Jayco AlUla will begin the Giro d’Italia on Saturday with a whole host of options to take the race by the scruff of the neck.

Be it Eddie Dunbar in the general classification, Filippo Zana and Luke Plapp across the rolling stages or Caleb Ewan in the sprint finishes, the Australian side will feel disappointed should they leave Italy with nothing to show for their efforts.

Read more: Giro d’Italia 2024: Essential race preview

Of the four riders, Plapp is the rider who has impressed the most in the early months of the season, finishing sixth at Paris-Nice in March and collecting a pair of runner-up positions in stages along the way. Despite another strong showing on the opening day of the Tour de Romandie, however, the 23-year-old remains coy on the prospect of putting together a GC bid.

“For me, it is just taking it day by day and working out what that involves as we go along,” he told the media during the team’s pre-race press conference on Friday afternoon.

“We’ve got Eddie here for GC, I’ll obviously try to stay on GC for the first couple of days but it’s easier said than done. For me, it’s just day by day and see how it unfolds over the three weeks, hopefully target some stages later in the tour.”

In finishing ahead of the likes of Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe), Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) and João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) at Paris-Nice, Plapp had tongues wagging at the prospect of him challenging the best climbers at the Giro d’Italia. But the Australian’s feet remain very much on the ground as he prepares to ride the first Giro of his career.

“[What I got from the Tour de Romandie was] not so much confidence as more surprising myself,” he added. “I think it definitely doesn’t give me confidence to ride GC or anything but hopefully there are some stage opportunities that present themselves.”

Where Plapp will be making his Giro debut, his teammate Caleb Ewan will line up for his sixth Giro this weekend in Turin. Remarkably, though, the Australian sprinter has yet to finish an edition, with his eyes usually reserved for targets later on in the year – often the Tour de France.

The 29-year-old holds five stage victories and five DNFs to his name at the Giro and whilst he will be hoping to add to the former over the next few weeks, Ewan is determined to finish the 21 stages this time around.

“The good thing is this is the first time that I am going to be able to actually attempt to finish the Giro. It is something that I have wanted to do for a while and it’s also going to be a bonus with the sprint on the last stage. This [race] is my main focus for the year,” Ewan said, pointing to the six or seven sprint opportunities that should present themselves in this year’s race.

Read more: Giro d’Italia: Analysing the sprinters – more exciting than the GC?

With Dylan Groenewegen handed the rule of the Jayco AlUla sprinting roost at this year’s Tour, Ewan has been able to make the Giro his primary goal for the season. A union between the two sprinters under the Jayco banner may have appeared strange at first glance, but Ewan has offered nothing but gratitude since re-signing for the team that he left for Lotto in 2019.

“It is obviously quite nice for me to come back, especially to an English-speaking team and I think it’s always more comfortable for a rider to be in a team of their home nation. I think if there’s a team that can get me back to my best, I think this is the one and this is probably the team that I will be most comfortable with.”

As the 29-year-old alluded to, however, it has been some time since we saw Ewan performing at his best in a Grand Tour.

‘My numbers are similar to when I was at my best’ says Ewan

Ewan is now without a stage win at a Grand Tour since the 2021 Giro d’Italia and in that time, the once-feared sprinter has only claimed two WorldTour victories.

With his relationship at Lotto Dstny reaching a mutual end over the winter, Ewan turned to his old GreenEDGE Cycling companions and despite only taking one win in the opening months of the current campaign, the Australian struck a confident tone on the eve of the Giro.

“I’m feeling pretty good, I’ve only done Eschborn-Frankfurt the other day since Tirreno but I had a good training camp and I feel good, My numbers are similar to when I have been at my best. I think you can never really tell until you start racing and see the form of your competitors, but for now, I feel really good.”

Supported by Max Walscheid and Luka Mezgec as part of his lead-out train during his Giro, Ewan hailed the experience of the pair when discussing his chances against a stacked sprinting field that includes Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike), Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) and Fabio Jakobsen (dsm-firmenich PostNL).

Against such competition, any win at this race will be commendable and help Ewan to re-establish his credentials as one of the fastest sprinters in the world. Although there is little left for the Australian to prove as he enters what may be the twilight of his career, the motivation to return to the top remains as high as ever for the 11-time Grand Tour stage winner.

“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove as such but obviously I want to get back to winning more often, as I was doing a few years ago. I think I’m in the right environment to do it now.”

For everything you need to know about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, from the history of the race to this year's route and start list, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

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