Five months have passed since Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France in mysterious circumstances, climbing off the bike seemingly without cause during stage 12, the day before the race’s major time trial.
While the sad passing of yet another music legend, Glenn Frey, made headlines around the world yesterday, it was impossible not to make a few tenuous connections with events here at the Tour Down Under.
The Eagles aren’t likely to be on any rider’s music stream but it’s easy to make up a playlist that perfectly describes Caleb Ewan’s rocketing profile.
He may already have a Grand Tour win under his belt, but there’s nothing like winning in front of your home fans to really create some hype, and that’s all Ewan has done since the calendar clicked over to January 2016.
Ewan’s two victories at the Tour Down Under – in the People’s Choice Classic and Stage 1 – gives him six wins this month, with the prospect of two, maybe even three more before the end of the week.
When you consider his stage win at the Vuelta a Espana last year was on a slight uphill finish, and then we have two other stages designated as sprint finishes, what’s to bet against Ewan winning all of them?
Life in the fast lane. Indeed.
It’s a shame we haven’t got a really big-name sprinter here this week – such as Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish or John Degenkolb – so we can get a real idea of how fast Ewan is, but as the saying goes, you can only beat what’s in front of you. So far he’s doing that comprehensively.
I wonder how Robbie McEwen felt watching this young phenomenon Take it to the limit in the final 200 metres yesterday, because the similarities with the Queenslander are scary.
But they become frightening when you consider that McEwen was 27 when he won for the first time at the Tour de France in 1999, whereas Ewan is currently 21.
The other obvious comparison is with Cavendish. The Manx Missile started winning heavily as a 22-year-old in 2007, and won his first Grand Tour stage at the Giro d’Italia the following year.
As things stand, Ewan has those boys covered.
What’s also stood out in the past few days with Ewan is how quickly he’s adapted to this level of racing.
At the 2014 Tour Down Under, Ewan came in as the newly crowned national Under-23 road racing champion, following a silver medal in the 2013 World Under-23 Roads.
A solid third place in the People’s Choice Classic increased expectations, but when the TDU started, by his own admission, Ewan found the race overwhelming.
He managed a solid 15th in Stage 6, but aside from that the best he could do was 95th in Stages 1 and 4, for 98th overall.
Ewan didn’t race here in 2015, so we’ve had to wait until now to see what a full year as a WorldTour rider, where he won ten times, has done for his ability and confidence.
So far no one is disappointed, how could you be?
It’s always exciting to see exciting talent emerge, but it’s even more exciting when that talent is only 21.
The punchy finish in Stirling is on the agenda for today, and there’s no reason Ewan can’t challenge there too.
If he does, you can bet that the rest of his Tour Down Under sprint rivals will be looking at not just some Heartache tonight but for the rest of the week as well.