When it comes to life advice, the message is often the same: take it slowly. "Life's a marathon, not a sprint," reads the faded poster at the gym. "Slow and steady wins the race," says your old man. But for Australian sprint cyclist Caleb Ewan, going fast feels right. "I must've been three years old when the training wheels came off my bike, and I remember speeding away from my dad," says Ewan. "I loved to go fast."
He raced off and didn't stop. By the time he was 10, his family had moved from Sydney's inner-city to the greener, hillier, Bowral in the Southern Highlands – famously home of Donald Bradman. "It was the perfect place to fall in love with cycling, so I joined the local club," says Ewan, who now lives in glamorous Monaco. "Growing up I was good, but never the best, though I was super competitive."
Ewan admits he's his competitive streak is in everything he does – a useful quality in an athlete. "I have an older brother and younger sister, so that explains that," he says, laughing. "For the first five years I was riding, my brother also rode, so I spent my childhood trying to beat him, he was two years older than me, and you feel that gap when you're young."
Sibling rivalry paid off in 2012 when a teenage Ewan blew away a field of professionals – many of them double his age – in the second sprint stage of the Geelong Bay Crits road race. "It was before I'd turned pro and I managed to beat a strong field, I was only 17, so that made people take notice."
Three years later he signed his first professional contract, joining the Australian team, Orica–GreenEDGE (now Mitchelton–Scott). After a few successful seasons including stage wins at the Tour Down Under and the highly regarded Giro d'Italia, he experienced the flip side of going fast; things can stop quickly.
Last year, Ewan was in line to make his Tour de France debut, the pinnacle for any cyclist. "I was in full training, the team confirmed I was competing, and a week before I left [for the Tour], I got a call saying I wasn't going to be racing," he explains. For a rider as competitive as Ewan, it was devastating. "I was very annoyed and made that clear to them, I then had six weeks of no racing, so I just thought, 'I'm not going to bother with this.'"
Unsurprisingly, the itch to ride fast refused to go away and Ewan hopped back on the bike. "The only person harmed by my attitude was me, so I decided to see out the season then leave the team."
Ewan signed with Belgian outfit, Lotto-Soudal, as their key sprinter for 2019 and turned his attention to a new year, new team. "It was a bit like the first day of school at first, getting to know everyone, but it has been great."
Now the primary goal is the one that got away, cycling's brutal beauty; the 2019 Tour de France. "I will be nervous I think, there has been such a build up, but I'm excited," says Ewan, who will line up for Lotto-Soudal when the Tour begins in July. "Most cyclists will tell you that it's a different race to any other, it has a certain magic, a mystery."
While his focus on the Tour, there's an even bigger prize waiting for the 24-year-old, beyond the finish line. "My wife, Ryann, and I are expecting a baby around the end [of the Tour], so it's turning out to be a big year."
The couple married last October, meaning they'll have ticked marriage and kids off the to-do list within 12 months – moving swiftly really is Ewan's style. "When you're a cyclist your whole world is about racing, so I'm looking forward to having a different focus, it'll help put things in perspective," he says.
A father-to-be, preparing for his first Tour de France, as the leader of his new team – it's enough to make anyone want to slow down, but when you're Caleb Ewan, life's a sprint.