Ewan makes Grand Tour return at Giro

Australia's Caleb Ewan is targeting Grand Tour stage wins for the Lotto-Soudal in the Giro d'Italia.
Australia's Caleb Ewan is targeting Grand Tour stage wins for the Lotto-Soudal in the Giro d'Italia.

Australian cycling star Caleb Ewan is back at a Grand Tour, nearly a year later than he planned.

The sprint ace is the Lotto-Soudal team leader for the Giro d'Italia, which starts on Saturday night (AEST) with a short time trial in Bologna.

The 24-year-old will aim for sprint wins in the flatter stages through the first half of the three-week Grand Tour.

Then Ewan will most likely abandon the Giro ahead of his scheduled Tour de France debut in July.

Ewan was supposed to make his Tour debut last year with Australian team Mitchelton-Scott, only to be a late omission from their line-up.

Even before his surprise Tour axing, there had been rumours that Ewan might be on the move and he eventually transferred to become Lotto-Soudal's top sprinter.

Compatriot Adam Hansen will be one of Ewan's domestiques in their strong Giro line-up.

One of 12 Australians in the Giro, Ewan would have liked more wins this season, but he took out two stages at last month's Tour of Turkey.

"Whatever the (sprint) finish, I'm going to be going for them 100 per cent," Ewan said.

"I feel maybe a little bit more pressure this year with Lotto-Soudal because with Mitchelton we had a GC (general classification) rider, so there was a GC rider to fall back on," he said.

"But I don't mind the extra pressure. I prefer to have that and have a full team supporting me instead of half a team."

This will be Ewan's fourth Grand Tour, with a stage win in the Giro two years ago and another in the 2015 Vuelta a Espana the highlights so far.

Mitchelton-Scott are now focused on the general classification in the Grand Tours and their Giro team leader will be British star Simon Yates.

He had the overall lead a year ago before compatriot Chris Froome tore the race apart in stage 19 so Yates, who secured the Australian team's first Grand Tour title in the Vuelta, said he has unfinished business in the Giro.

One of Yates' most important support staff on the Giro will be Mitchelton-Scott's communications manager Taryn Kirby, an Australian who has worked on the low-profile rider's media skills.

"I guess I'm getting more and more used to it (media), more confident," Yates said.

"Taryn makes a big difference."

AUSTRALIANS IN THE GIRO

* Caleb Ewan, Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal)

* Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe)

* Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ)

* Luke Durbridge, Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton-Scott)

* Ben O'Connor, Mark Renshaw (Dimension Data)

* Chris Hamilton, Jai Hindley, Robert Power (Team Sunweb)

* Will Clarke (Trek-Segafredo)

Australian Associated Press