Caleb Ewan hears all the talk that he makes winning look easy by flying past rivals at speeds of 65km/h-plus to win bunch sprints, but the star in the making says it is anything but easy.
After Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) won the 130.8-kilometre first stage of the Tour Down Under in South Australia from Prospect to the Barossa town of Lyndoch on Tuesday, he said: "It was probably the easiest day on paper out of all the stages [in the race], maybe bar the last one.
Gerrans set for Tour Down Under
Three-time champion comes into the race in Adelaide as one of the favourites but says every team has a potential winner.
"Compared to the other ones it probably was easy, but they are never really easy, you know. In the end it was super fast and super hard."
Super hard it was on a day that saw the peloton race in heat that reached 40 degrees and into a strong northerly that blew into their faces right up until Ewan streaked across the line to claim his sixth win from eight races so far this season.
By beating fellow NSW rider Mark Renshaw (Dimension Data) and Dutchman Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) who finished second and third respectively, Ewan also clinched his first World Tour win on Australian soil, and the second of his career – the first being his stage five victory in the Vuelta a Espana grand tour last August.
The first day of the Tour Down Under also ended with Ewan claiming three category jerseys – ochre for overall leader, green for best young rider, and red for best sprinter.
Going into stage two on Wednesday, 132 kilometres from Unley to Stirling, Ewan's overall lead, with all time bonuses collated, is four seconds on both second-placed Renshaw and Frenchman Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) in third place.
"It's a really proud moment for me," Ewan said after the stage. "I've never led a World Tour race before and to lead my first one in my home country is a real honour."
But defending the lead is not on Ewan's "to do" list as Orica-GreenEDGE's plans are to try to help Victorian teammate Simon Gerrans win a record fourth overall victory.
As well as praising his team's work, Ewan lauded Gerrans for allowing the team to help him.
"I need to thank 'Gerro' for that, for sharing the team with me," Ewan said. "If he says to the team that he just wants them to ride for him, they would have to do that. So for a guy like that, who can really win overall, to say, 'Yeah ... You can have your go's on the days it's going to be sprints', it means a lot."
Ewan said it mattered not that some big sprinters were not at the Tour Down Under – like Germans Marcel Kittel and Andrew Greipel and British star Mark Cavendish.
"It's still a real quality field," the 21-year-old said. "The guys that are here have all beaten Kittel, Greipel and 'Cav'.
"Just because the big names aren't here doesn't mean the sprints aren't super fast. I'm happy with the field here. I'm proud to beat these guys as well.
"It's a pretty big confidence boost. That's exactly what I need going into the season.
The impact of Ewan's victory on Tuesday should persist beyond the Tour Down Under, according to Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director Matt White.
"I think [it will] for the season," White said. "He has started that down here ... he'll make his mark this season. How big we will see."