CYCLING: Caleb Ewan admits his confidence began to desert him late last year but says it is back with a vengeance after he rode himself into the record books at the Tour Down Under.
The 22-year-old became only the third rider in the race's 19-year history to win four stages in the one week, joining Robbie McEwen (2002) and Andre Greipel (2008).
He also won the opening night classic, which followed his second national criterium title, meaning he heads to Melbourne for the 'Towards Zero' criterium on Thursday brimming with career-high self belief.
The added psychological bonus was beating world champion Peter Sagan, with the two possibly set to joust again in Milan-San Remo in March if Ewan is selected in the Orica-Scott team.
"(I have) a whole lot of confidence going back to Europe and as a sprinter it's something you really need," Ewan said.
"I felt like in the back end or middle of last season I was kind of lacking confidence a bit, and hesitating in the sprints a lot, and that caused me to get boxed in and I wouldn't really be able to open up my sprint a lot.
"And I think here ( at the TDU) you can see with the confidence I have. I'm really relaxed in the sprints and I'm able to get out of gaps when I need to and open up my sprint.
"I learnt to stay calm when things might not have gone the way I wanted them to and hope that something opens up.
"Because I knew I had good form and didn't need that much room to get past my rivals, I just stayed calm and waited for those gaps to open."
Ewan wants to race the 298km Milan-San Remo in March and will be considered for selection based on his form and training data from coaches.
Beyond that it's likely he'll race the Giro d'Italia but not the Tour de France, as Orica-Scott targets the yellow jersey most likely with Esteban Chaves.
"I'd like to see myself in the Tour de France but it's hard with the expectations of having a serious GC contender and me going as well for sprints," he said.
"Because now days you either have to go full gas for a sprint or GC and with a guy like Esteban and the Yateses (Simon and Adam) in the team, who have already podiumed at Grand Tours, it's going to be hard for the team to take a sprint train for me."
Despite finishing on the podium of both the Giro and Vuelta last year, Chaves is yet to reveal whether he'll ride the Tour de France in July.
"I don't know if I go to the Tour de France. First we finish the Australian season and then back to Colombia for the nationals, and after that we take a decision on what are the next races," Chaves said.
If Chaves does get to the Tour, he'll go head-to-head again with Tour Down Under winner Richie Porte after they traded blows on Paracombe and Willunga during Adelaide's great race.
"Richie has started really well here, he showed a really good performance on the two climbs and he has no contender for the moment," Chaves said.
"We will see in Europe, racing is longer, longer climbs in the big tours, so I take it step by step.
"He climbs really good, it's no secret, this guy is super skinny now, he trained really well, he knows the race, for me the first time I'm here so now I know.
"Next year maybe I will try again."
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