“They [Mitchelton-Scott] wanted to be a GC team and I’m a sprinter. It was working for the first few years I was there but then when I really wanted to excel and go to big races that’s when I felt there was the push back from the team. They always said it was a development thing but … I think now when I look back, they weren’t holding me back for my best interest, they were using that as an excuse because they had different plans,” Ewan said.
“That was probably the hardest thing for me to do, to leave the team, because it was a really big decision whether to stay or leave. At the end of the day I had to take the risk to move on because as far as performance, I wasn’t getting what I needed from the team.”
All that combined with a slow start to the 2019 season and the Tour, where Ewan claimed his first win on stage 11, contributed to the pressure he had to persist under.
Ewan’s potential has preceded him since he was 17, competing domestically. Greipel (Arkea-Samsic) even offered to race for him at Lotto Soudal this year, a demotion that was respectfully declined amid the team’s generational overhaul. But touted talent doesn’t shelter you from the harsh business that is professional sports.
“I had a really rough run up until the Tour,” said Ewan, who left for the race before his first child, born six weeks premature, was discharged from hospital.
“I went there with my new team, I went there as a clear leader for the team to get them their results. They’d just had Andre there for the last eight years, who’d won them I think 12 [11 ] Tour de France stages, so I’m following on from that.
“I’ve never done the Tour before, I’ve got the media looking at me thinking, is he going to do as well as he thought he was going to the year before, or is he going to get there, do nothing, and was Mitchelton right to leave him at home.
“I went into the Tour with a lot of pressure from a lot of different angles.
“I’m proud of the way I dealt with that and performed through it, especially when the first half I hadn’t won and obviously I needed to win.”
Ewan finished on the podium four times before his stage 11 victory, which spurred him to line honours on stage 16 and then again on the prestigious Champs Elysees where he cemented himself as the most successful sprinter of the 106th edition.
His performance was especially impressive in a year where mental health was topical, following several unexpected retirements including that of German rival Marcel Kittel.
“I’d gone to the Tour, I’d done well, I’d done well for my new team, my daughter was born and she was all good. There was so much stress I guess leading into the Tour, it wasn’t healthy I don’t think,” Ewan said.
“I actually deal with a lot of stuff just by myself. It’s the way I’ve always been. I don’t know if it’s a good thing, maybe it’s better if I speak to someone, I don’t know, but I think when I finished the Tour it was the biggest relief of my life.
“It’s not an easy thing to go through, especially because I was only 24.
“In the end to win three stages in the last 10 days, all that pressure from the start, and then all the pressure again from not winning for the first half, I think is something I can be proud of.”
Ewan finished his season with 11 victories, including two stage wins at the Giro d’Italia in May, plus victory at September’s Brussels Cycling Classic, a coup for his Belgian squad that he envisages a long future with ahead of a 2020 campaign set to commence at January’s Tour Down Under in Adelaide.