How Ewan and Groenewegen will share the sprints at Jayco AlUla

On the menu: separate lead-out trains and pre-determined schedules.

Rupert Guinness
by Rupert Guinness 15.01.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
More from Rupert +

Plans to ensure Caleb Ewan and Dylan Groenewegen avoid clashing in their first season together on Jayco AlUla were made before they became teammates.

The WorldTour team’s lead sports director, Matt White, reaffirmed on Monday that Ewan, 29, who’s in his first year back with the Australian outfit since leaving after 2018, will not race in this year’s Tour de France, but the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. 

Groenewegen, 30, who has been with the team since 2022 and re-signed in October last year in a deal that will run up to and include 2025, will race in this year’s Tour.

Speaking on the eve of the 2023 Santos Tour Down Under in Adelaide, White outlined how the team managed the delicate issue of getting the two star sprinters to agree on the split in Grand Tour participation for their first year together.

The agreement is only locked in for 2024 though. Which sprinter gets the Tour ticket for 2025 is up for grabs and will be decided on form and results leading into the Tour.

Accommodating the ambitions of Ewan and Groenewegen is also not the only focus of Jayco-AlULa. Briton Simon Yates remains the team’s main hope for overall classification in the tours. The team has also had several alterations with departures and the addition of recently re-crowned Australian road champion Luke Plapp from Ineos-Grenadiers and Swiss all-rounder Mauro Schmid from Soudal-Quick-Step.

“We’ve been through a rebuilding phase in the last two or three years, and this is the best roster we’ve had for five years, I reckon,” White said on Monday.

Asked how the team worked to fulfil the needs of Ewan and Groenewegen, including the selection of their respective sprint trains, White said: “That’s all been organized. That was all organized pretty much before they signed.

“I spoke to Dylan about Caleb’s arrival before it all happened. We didn’t want them to race against each other. We’ve agreed to these programs. The boys know that 2025 is off the cards with where the best sprinter goes to the Tour. But this year, Caleb does Giro-Vuelta … Dylan’s doing the Tour. We worry about next year, next year.

“I had similar discussions with Caleb, during the season last year, and he was sort of ‘Do you think it could work?’  And I said, ‘The only thing that doesn’t work is the Tour de France.’ As a sprinter, that’s what you want to do … but was all clear. 

“I wouldn’t say they are friends but [there is] a lot of respect between the two.”

White, who has been with the team since its inception in 2012, would not delve into the issue that triggered Ewan’s departure after 2018 when he missed out on a berth for the Tour, despite the team announcing early that year that he would be selected.

“Well, that was the plan that year,” White said of the issue, before diverting back to season 2024. “We just want to be really clear with the guys, not have them compete against each other or inside their own team. I think it’s going to work really well.”

White said the two sprinters will have dedicated sprint trains throughout the season. For Groenewegen, the core of his train will be Slovenian Luka Mezgec and Dutchman Elmar Reinders. Ewan’s train will include New Zealander Campbell Stuart and German Max Walscheid who signed with the team before Ewan committed to his return. “Max is one of the biggest guys in the WorldTour, a big strong lad,” said White. “The combination with him and Campbell will work really well for Caleb.” 

However, White said riders today had to be more versatile. No longer can riders focus on their specialist roles. No longer can star sprinters just focus on speed. With racing becoming more aggressive, all riders needed to be upskilled on all fronts.

“In some races we will be going with a pure silver sprint focus; but for a lot of the races we will have a GC rider,” White said. “In a seven- or eight-man team you’ve got to pick versatile guys who can be useful to Caleb or Dylan, and also for Simon [Yates] or whoever’s riding for classification as well.

“Gone are the days of being a one-dimensional rider. Dylan is a pure sprinter, and we’ve tried to keep developing him so he can finish the races easier. He’s like a bodybuilder on wheels. For those guys, it’s not easy finishing the Tour de France. 

“Caleb’s a little more versatile climbing-wise. But gone are the days where teams say it’s a sprint day, we’ll just leave it up to the sprinters. The racing is so aggressive, and those guys are put under a lot more pressure than they were 10 years ago. 

“There’s probably less opportunities for the pure sprinters. We’ve also got another breed of riders … your Wout van Aerts and [Mathieu] van der Poels can do everything. 

“These guys are going head to [head] with Dylan and Caleb and then doing Classics, one-day races, riding climbs when there are 20 blokes left. They are a different athlete. They get through to the finish a lot easier than the pure sprinters do. 

“There’s definitely a change; and it changes the type of athlete coming through the sport.”

What did you think of this story?