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11th Tour Down Under - ProT
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, January 18-25, 2009
Cancer Council Classic - January 18: Cancer Council Classic, 51 km
No bad luck for McEwen's 13th
Lance in the groove at the back
By Les Clarke in Adelaide, South Australia
Robbie McEwen loves a challenge, and after winning tonight's Cancer Council Classic in front of a delighted crowd and with a new team surrounding him, he was full of joy. And rightly so for a number of reasons. "I love a crowd," said McEwen after the finish. "It was a great day out, and it's the first race with my team."
Lance Armstrong finished in the pack in his first professional race back since he retired after the 2005 Tour de France.
After Team Columbia, Saxo Bank, UniSA-Australia and Rabobank showed their hand at the front of the race in the closing laps, it was the 36-year-old Queenslander with 12 wins to his name at the Tour Down Under that proved there's plenty of speed in his legs. Coming down the left side of the finishing straight he overpowered the likes of Baden Cooke, Allan Davis, Graeme Brown and André Greipel with his trademark drag to the line.
"I've worked fairly hard over the summer for this race," said McEwen, who celebrated this win with possibly more emotion than any of his previous victories at this event. "I thought if I get one win over the week it'd be fantastic. And we've got it – it's a great start to the year and I couldn't be happier with it. It's unreal."
In addition to being the first ProTour race for Russian team Katusha, it was a reunion of old sparring partners McEwen and Gert Steegmans, the duo having enjoyed success during the latter's stay at Predictor-Lotto [now Silence-Lotto]. "It didn't go like we wanted it to, but it's almost never like we want to," said Steegmans after the finish.
"The other guys are also new and they don't have the experience with Robbie. The only problem was that at certain moments we were a little short on people on the front, because we have a lot of young guys. Then it was just a matter of being on the front later and making sure he stayed out of the wind."
Despite a few teething problems, Steegmans praised the efforts of the team and explained that the new squad was satisfied. "We're also happy, because with the new team there's always a lot of pressure. ... It was the reason we came here with the sprint team – to get a victory as soon as possible – and now in Russia I hope they're satisfied so they don't say we're a bad team."
How it unfolded
With the Cancer Council the title sponsor of the evening's race, Armstrong was again the centre of attention before the start. His presence was soon shelved – albeit for a short time – as those with ambitions of victory made their intentions known and went on the attack.
The first to attack were Jack Bobridge (UniSA-Australia) and Liquigas' Maciej Bodnar, who got away during the second lap. They contested the first and second primes, both of which were taken out by Bobridge, with Alexandr Pliuschin joining the duo on the sixth time around the 1.7km circuit.
Behind this trio Team Columbia was looking after the interests of André Greipel and Mark Renshaw. Bernhard Eisel, Adam Hansen and Michael Rogers kept these two sprinters, who have enjoyed success in this race before, secure in the bunch.
"This was more of a warm up race really," said Rogers after the finish. "It suited the sprinters rather than an endurance-style [rider] like me; I probably suffered more than the fast guys. We have a super team this week. We really showed what we had out there tonight. We led the thing from a few laps out and unfortunately André [Greipel] could not finish it up. That is the way it is; the most important thing is we got together and got the team to the front."
Ahead of the yellow-clad team the advantage of the break were limited. By the third prime, they had been reeled in and the intermediate sprint went to Jeremy Roy (Française des Jeux). The French team was amongst the money again when New Zealander Tim Gudsell slipped away to take the fourth and final prime. Gudsell nearly lasted a lap in front
Stuart O'Grady continued to ride himself into form on the front of the group with the aim of getting young sprinter Matt Goss to the front and keeping him there. Super-domestic Mathew Hayman did likewise for Graeme Brown, while Garmin-Slipstream made its presence felt with the likes of Chris Sutton.
Coming into the final lap the massive crowd of 138,000 didn't know what to expect from the sprint finale, with McEwen, Cooke, Davis, Greipel, Brown and Rojas all in the hunt. They couldn't match McEwen's blistering pace in the final metres. After moving to the left, he held on to show that the doubters better revise their expectations of him in 2009.
"I don't know if the doubters fire me up – there will always be doubters," said McEwen. "The thing is that I've just done my thing, kept training worked towards this point pretty solidly, and here I am first across the line. That's all that matters.
"The guys did a great job considering it's their first race of the season; they haven't got any race fitness but they came out and gave it their all. We got organised, we had a good chat before the start and worked out a bit of a tactic. I also just said to them, 'Listen fellas, there's no pressure. We'll do it and if it works that's great, but if you haven't got the legs it's the first race of the year and there are plenty to go.'
"The last big race I won was Paris-Brussels in the middle of September. It's something special to win in your own country, in the biggest race in the country. In front of all these people – it was a special atmosphere.
"We got win number one, so we're the happiest team here at the moment."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Mark Gunter/www.pbase.com/gunterphotograph
Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Katusha 1.04.32 2 Wim Stroetinga (Ned) Team Milram 3 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank 4 Andre Greipel (Ger) Team Columbia-High Road 5 Jose Rojas (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 6 Allan Davis (Aus) Quick Step 7 Baden Cooke (Aus) UniSA 8 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas 9 Hilton Clarke (Aus) Fuji-Servetto 0.01 10 Chris Sutton (Aus) Garmin-Slipstream 11 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Team Columbia-High Road 12 Nicholas Roche (Irl) Ag2R La Mondiale 0.02 13 Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale 14 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C 15 Rony Martias (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 16 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 17 Andrea Grendene (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C 0.03 18 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Team Katusha 0.05 19 Aliaksandr Usau (Blr) Cofidis 0.06 20 Julien El Fares (Fra) Cofidis 21 Markel Irizar (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 22 Mikael Cherel (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux 23 Alexandr Pliuschin (Mda) Ag2R La Mondiale 0.07 24 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 25 Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Francaise Des Jeux 26 Cameron Meyer (Aus) Garmin-Slipstream 27 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Ag2R La Mondiale 0.08 28 Matthew Goss (Aus) Team Saxobank 29 Timothy Gudsell (NZl) Francaise Des Jeux 30 Kasper Klostergaard (Den) Team Saxobank 31 Luca Barla (Ita) Team Milram 32 Aaron Kemps (Aus) UniSA 0.09 33 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step 34 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram 35 Greg Henderson (NZl) Team Columbia-High Road 36 Josu Agirre (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 37 Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank 38 Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Liquigas 0.10 39 Yoann Offredo (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux 0.11 40 Pablo Urtasun (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 41 Frank Hoj (Den) Team Saxobank 0.12 42 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Team Katusha 43 Guillaume Blot (Fra) Cofidis 0.15 44 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step 0.16 45 Cladio Corioni (Ita) Liquigas 0.17 46 Nicki Sorensen (Den) Team Saxobank 47 Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Silence-Lotto 0.18 48 Mickael Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis 0.19 49 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Slipstream 50 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 0.21 51 Kurt Hovelijnck (Bel) Quick Step 0.22 52 Jonas Ljungblad (Swe) Silence-Lotto 53 Nicolas Portal (Fra) Caisse D'Epargne 0.23 54 Thomas Rohregger (Aut) Team Milram 55 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 56 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team Saxobank 57 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia-High Road 58 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Columbia-High Road 59 Michael Schar (Swi) Astana 60 Imanol Erviti (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 61 Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr) Liquigas 62 Mathieu Claude (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 63 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 64 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 65 Florent Brard (Fra) Cofidis 66 Jesus Hernandez (Spa) Astana 67 Steve Morabito (Swi) Astana 0.24 68 Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana 69 Francesco Reda (Ita) Quick Step 70 Vitaliy Buts (Ukr) Lampre - N.G.C 71 Travis Meyer (Aus) UniSA 72 Davide Malacarne (Ita) Quick Step 73 Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Francaise Des Jeux 74 Markus Eichler (Ger) Team Milram 75 Daniele Nardello (Ita) Fuji-Servetto 76 Vincent Jerome (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 77 Mathieu Drujon (Fra) Caisse D'Epargne 78 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxobank 79 Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxobank 0.25 80 Perrig Quemeneur (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 81 Kenny De Haes (Bel) Team Katusha 82 Juan Horrach (Spa) Team Katusha 83 Jose Luis Rubiera (Spa) Astana 84 Stef Clement (Ned) Rabobank 85 Hubert Schwab (Swi) Quick Step 86 Aitor Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 87 Ronny Scholz (Ger) Team Milram 0.26 88 Rene Mandri (Est) Ag2R La Mondiale 89 Glenn D'Hollander (Bel) Silence-Lotto 90 Vladmir Efimkin (Rus) Ag2R La Mondiale 91 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Team Katusha 0.27 92 Sergio De Lis (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 93 Sergey Klimov (Rus) Team Katusha 94 Ivan Dominquez (USA) Fuji-Servetto 95 Ermanno Capelli (Ita) Fuji-Servetto 96 Rick Flens (Ned) Rabobank 97 Simon Clarke (Aus) UniSA 98 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana 99 Gianni Da Ros (Ita) Liquigas 0.28 100 Andoni Lafuente (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 101 Emanuele Bindi (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C 102 Javier Megias (Spa) Fuji-Servetto 103 Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Ag2R La Mondiale 104 Frederick Willems (Bel) Liquigas 105 Timmy Duggan (USA) Garmin-Slipstream 106 William Walker (Aus) Fuji-Servetto 107 Trent Lowe (Aus) Garmin-Slipstream 108 Martin Muller (Ger) Team Milram 0.29 109 Adam Hansen (Aus) Team Columbia-High Road 110 Mario Aerts (Bel) Silence-Lotto 111 Kai Reus (Ned) Rabobank 112 Christian Meier (Can) Garmin-Slipstream 113 Jack Bobridge (Aus) UniSA 114 Volodymyr Zagorodniy (Ukr) Lampre - N.G.C 115 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Silence-Lotto 116 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre - N.G.C 117 Jeremy Roy (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux 118 Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C 119 Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Silence-Lotto 120 Scott Davis (Aus) UniSA 121 Tom Stubbe (Bel) Silence-Lotto 122 Matthew Wilson (Aus) UniSA 123 Remy Di Gregorio (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux 124 Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 0.30 125 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Liquigas 126 Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis 127 Laurent Lefevre (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 128 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis 129 Pablo Lastras (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne 0.31 130 Davide Vigano (Ita) Fuji-Servetto 0.43 131 Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin-Slipstream 0.45 DNF Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia-High Road DNF Tom Leezer (Ned) Rabobank