Commonwealth Games 2022: Phil Liggett previews Australia’s road racing hopes, Caleb Ewan’s retirement

Global cycling icon Phil Liggett says Australia’s men’s team will go into the Commonwealth Games road race “headless” after a major withdrawal.

The withdrawal of sprint star Caleb Ewan leaves the Australian team “headless” for road racing, says cycling icon Phil Liggett.

Australia will be looking for a clean win in the road cycling program after Rohan Dennis and Grace Brown’s victories in Sunday’s time trial in Warwick.

But their chances of winning the men’s race took a big hit when Ewan pulled away from it.

The gun sprinter had shoulder surgery last Monday to remove a plate in his shoulder.

AusCycling announced on Friday, two days before the road race, that it was hoping Ewan would recover in time to compete, but it was “obvious now” that he would not be able to go to the start line.

Liggett, who will commentate on the road race for Channel 7, said it was a big blow to Australia in the flat 160km race.

“It’s a headless team right now, to be absolutely frank, and if they come up with something special, I take my hat off to them,” he told News Corp.

“But they’re certainly a weakened cast now, that’s for sure.”

Now without a pure sprinter with Kaden Groves and Michael Matthews, who retired weeks ago due to professional team commitments, Liggett said he expected Australia to try to blow the race apart.

“It was supposed to be a sprint but the Australians are in trouble now because they lost all their sprinters, they have to make new plans now,” he said.

“I know Luke Plapp is thinking about causing as much trouble as possible and the team will try to attack to stop the race because they don’t really have a sprinter to take it home.

“Rohan Dennis can be a great sprinter on his day, but against guys like Mark Cavendish it’s a risk.”

Cavendish will start without Ewan as a hot favorite but Liggett said the Isle of Man superstar needed to have his wits about him.

“The thing about Commonwealth games is that there’s no quality at depth where you know who you’re looking at and you have to monitor who’s attacking,” he said.

“And if they get by, and that’s the Australians’ plan now to smash the race to bits, who’s going to help Cav catch up?

“So he has to have a very smart race, he’s a smart driver.

“He can’t just sit in the peloton and expect to win the sprint because it could go wrong.”

Liggett said Australia’s plan to attack early could accommodate Welsh Geraint Thomas, while he was still unsure if South Africa’s Jarman Impey would actually show up after only one South African rider competed in the time trial.

The men’s time trial was marred by falls for Thomas and England’s Dan Bigham after the riders were given limited insight into the tricky course.

“Of all the courses to scout out in race conditions, this was a tricky old course to say the least,” he said.

“They rode them around as a peloton with an escort front and back, but you have to be able to see the track in race conditions to see all those bumps.”

While Australia’s men’s odds are now up in the air, Liggett said they are the ones to beat in the women’s race with time trial champion Grace Brown, Sarah Roy, Alex Manly, Georgia Baker and Ruby Roseman-Gannon strong Rides over the 112km.

“I think the Australian team is looking good, they see a better chance than the men,” he said.

“If you look at the field, there isn’t a lot of quality.”

Liggett also confirmed he would be returning to Australia for the Tour Down Under next year.

Originally published as Commonwealth Games 2022: Phil Liggett previews Australia’s road racing hopes, Caleb Ewan’s retirement Commonwealth Games 2022: Phil Liggett previews Australia’s road racing hopes, Caleb Ewan’s retirement

Nate Jones

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