Caleb Ewan claims stage two to make it a pair on the trot for Orica-GreenEDGE

Man of the moment: Caleb Ewan celebrates after winning Friday’s stage. Photo: Tony PrytzOrica-GreenEDGE has rebounded royally from a lean summer by claiming two victories in two days after Caleb Ewan notched his maiden UCI stage win in the first season he has started as a professional.

Through a winless national championships, barren Tour Down Under and yet another runner-up placing in last week’s Cadel Evans one-day race, Australia’s only World Tour team – clearly missing an injured Simon Gerrans – found itself settling for second best again earlier this week in the prologue of the Jayco Herald-Sun Tour.

Cameron Meyer put an end to the trend with a breakthrough opening stage win on Thursday. Then, with 20-year-old Ewan following suit less than 24 hours later after negotiating an eventful bunch sprint finish into Nagambie, suddenly it seemed winning had become infectious. Meyer was even bold enough to forecast a trifecta, nominating Ewan as the man to beat in Saturday’s third stage.

A crash ruined the day of Drapac speedster Brenton Jones, who left the course in an ambulance rattled and bloodied, after tangling with Sam Witmitz (Budget Forklifts and third in the stage) while travelling an estimated 70km/h within metres of the finish line.

But things could not have gone better for Orica-GreenEDGE on the 118km route that left Meyer on top of the general classification with a four-second buffer.

The race was ridden aggressively – cyclists including multiple world track champion Meyer and young gun Ewan remarked on how stressful the frenetic early attacks had felt – soon after leaving Bendigo.

American Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka), a stage winner in each of world cycling’s three grand tours and one of the top names in the event, managed to break away with prologue winner Will Clarke (Drapac) and Briton Michael Cuming (JLT Condor) around 40 kilometres in. The dangerous trio managed to put around 3 minutes, 30 seconds between themselves and the peloton before Cumming was dropped and Farrar and Clarke were caught by the bunch with six kilometres to go.

By finishing in the group of 77 riders that Ewan led through, Meyer retained his lead in the general classification and has good back up with teammates Simon Clarke, the defending champion, and Damien Howson behind him at 19 and 23 seconds respectively (fourth and sixth overall).

“I am aiming for five or six wins in UCI races this year, so it’s good to get one on the board,” Ewan said after capitalising on a strong lead out from his teammates with about 300 metres to go.

“After you win one stage, your confidence lifts a fair bit, and I know I can beat all of the guys here in the sprint now, so going into the next stage I will be a lot more confident.”

Jones, in contrast, was left battle-scarred. Though after originally being listed as the sixth finisher, he was elevated to fifth by judges who ruled that his skidding body had crossed the line before his bike – and the nearest competitor – thereby earning him a promotion.

“Obviously there was a gap and he [Witmitz] decided to come underneath me, and my left cheek just got taken out by his right-hand shifter, so I hit the deck after that,” a flat Jones said afterwards.

“The ribcage and chest and back and neck are quite sore from the hard impact, so we’ll see how they pull up … and assess from there. It’s a big season and I want to continue to get results for the guys, so if it doesn’t mean tomorrow, I’ll be back next race.”

Stage three commences at Mitchelton winery, an estate co-owned by Orica-GreenEDGE owners Gerry and Andrew Ryan. After some tough climbing in the Strathbogie Ranges, the stage finishes again with a flat run into Nagambie.

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