Caleb Ewan is “pretty devastated” and “deserves an apology” after his Lotto-Dstny boss accused him of having “no respect for his teammates.”
The Australian sprinter departed midway through stage 13 of the Tour de France, bringing to an end his time at the race after almost a fortnight. In that time he twice came close to victory, finishing second and third on stages three and four, respectively.
Stéphane Heulot, the general manager of Lotto-Dstny, however, was scathing of Ewan’s performances at the Tour, claiming to Sporza that “his Tour de France is a reflection of what he showed this season and last year.
“The first two sprints were satisfactory,” he said. “The other three sprints were not at all to his liking. He took umbrage at it… it’s a disappointment. The whole team, the staff, the partners, have invested a lot in him. A rider has duties and not only rights. We are entitled to ask for another commitment from him.”
He added in an interview with L’Equipe: “I sacrificed a lot of riders for him and I regret it. He asks for a lot from his team and it’s a lot for him, always for him.” In additional comments to Het Laatste Niuews, Heulot further showed his dissatisfaction saying that “I am very, very disappointed with him… a true champion pulls his team up [and] he didn’t do that.
“[Frederik] Frison and [Florian] Vermeersch] stopped for several minutes to wait for him [on an unspecified stage] but when he reached them he gave up. When you do that, you have no respect for your teammates.”
Ewan’s agent Jason Bakker has hit back strongly at the accusations, telling Cycling Weekly: “The way I am used to dealing with situations between athletes and teams is that you normally respect one another and respect is shown, as opposed to airing such comments publicly.
“To throw what he said out there publicly and humiliate a rider who has given so much to Lotto over a period of time of four to five years is quite disgusting to be frank.
“The graph of a pro athlete’s career is never a smooth incline: it’s full of bumps, peaks and troughs, and to act that way in such a difficult time for Caleb and the team is not acceptable.
“Sometimes comments such as these ones say much more about the person saying them than about the person they’re talking about. I’ve spoken with Caleb twice and he’s pretty devastated. His wife is heavily pregnant with their third child and these comments are very insensitive. It’s extremely disappointing.
“He [Heulot] talked about Caleb’s mindset. To question someone’s mental health publicly in such a way is a very dangerous thing to do and he owes Caleb an apology.”
Ewan last won stages at the Tour de France in 2020 and has endured a difficult past few seasons. Bakker, though, believes that Heulot’s words were out of order.
“You try to find some way to work through difficult moments and Caleb doesn’t deserve these comments and this treatment,” Bakker continued. "Has the last period been pretty? No it hasn’t, but he has done some wonderful things for Lotto in his time there, and without Caleb in the team they have would have been barren in terms of victories for a lot longer than what they have been. They have short memories, clearly. You learn more about people in the hard times.”
In total, Ewan has won five stages of the Tour in his four-and-a-half years with Lotto. Other highlights include wins at the Giro d’Italia, Tirreno-Adriatico and Scheldeprijs. As Bakker outlined, the 29-year-old twice came close to beating the race’s dominant sprinter in the opening week, and this was despite only racing 19 days in Europe before the Tour began on July 1.
“It’s been a somewhat interesting year,” Bakker went on. “Lotto didn’t send a team to Australia so Caleb paid his own way to the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Race and rode for an inexperienced national team. He invested in that. He had two near-misses at the UAE Tour and there was enough to suggest he was building.
“I think he came into the Tour in better form than in other years and it’s amazing what a win and a bit of confidence can do. It’s also amazing what consistent support and belief from your own team does to you. When you don’t have that it’s very difficult. If you feel that the people around you haven’t got the belief or are losing belief, it makes life very hard.”
Ewan’s attempts to win a stage at the Tour for the first time since 2020 were hamstrung by not being selected for the Critérium du Dauphiné in June and then by injuries to two trusted teammates early on in the race. Bakker added: “He started this Tour de France with great promise. He wasn’t coming in absolutely cherry ripe, and he wouldn’t have liked to have ridden the Dauphiné but that wasn’t granted by the team. He therefore came into the Tour with a different preparation but with the mindset that he could do very good things with the team.
“He was a close second and third to Philipsen in the early stages which was evidence of that - he was the only sprinter to really threaten Jasper. At the start of the Tour Caleb’s main leadout man, Jasper De Buyst, fractured his collarbone, and his other leadout man [Jacopo Guarnieri] broke his collarbone. It wasn’t ideal for Caleb.”