Role: Sprinter until mid-season retirement, then team advisory role
2011 WorldTour ranking: 159
- Giro d’Italia: 8th in stage 2
- Down Under Classic: 3rd
- Tour Down Under: 2nd in stage 2, 3rd in stage 1
- Tour de Mumbai: 2nd
- Tour de Wallonie: 1st in stage 4
- Tour de Wallonie-Picarde: 1st overall, won stages 1 & 4
Why I like him:
Ask Paul Sherwen [that’s the TV commentator that isn’t Phil Liggett – Ed] about Robbie McEwen and he will no doubt mention his invisibility cloak – the peloton winds up for the sprint and he’s nowhere to be seen until hey! presto! he comes flying out of nowhere to hurtle towards the finish line. McEwen is one incredible sprinter – he’s won his three green jerseys without a big, powerful lead-out train like Cipollini or Cavendish, but by using his wits, his incredible eye for the right wheel to follow and his explosive jump that would leave his competitors racing for second.
Personally, sprints don’t do a lot for me – climbs and Classics are more my thing, but I have always loved Robbie McEwen. I like him because he speaks up for himself – people have sometimes taken that as having a chip on his shoulder when I think he just doesn’t suffer fools gladly (and why should he?) But if you do know your stuff and you treat him with the respect he deserves, he always gives a good interview.
I also like that he’s just a little guy who nips in and out, ducking and diving, riding faster and faster. He’s also smart – his autobiography details how he reads a race and makes the most of the peloton’s energy to accomplish his goals. This year is his last one riding, retiring about halfway through the season to take on an advisory role with his new team, GreenEDGE. I only hope he rides one last Tour de France so he can give his invisibility cloak one last airing in July.
Where to see him in 2012:
Tour Down Under, Giro d’Italia, Tour de France (hopefully).
Watch out for regular updates tracking Robbie McEwen’s 2012 season over the coming months.
I remember Robbie falling on Stage 1 of 2007’s Tour from London to Canterbury, everyone writing him off, then lo and behold, he pops out of the peloton at just the right moment to steal the show. I was standing 50m from the finish with a small contingent of the thousands-strong Tom Boonen Fan Club who were certain their man was going to do it. Their hopes were cruelly dashed.
Yes, Sheree, that is one of my favourite McEwen performances – just out of nowhere, here he is. He talks about that at length in his autobiography – it gets the heart racing just reading it (I do believe my review of his book is coming up on the blog soon!).
Just a point of clarification: he was asked on Twitter the other day if he was riding the Tour de France this year and it was a one-word answer: no. Which made my heart sink a bit. I was hoping he’d go for just one more … 🙁
Sounds pretty categorical, but I’m guessing Robbie will see how he feels as these next few months progress. If he feels good maybe he will have his swan-song at the Tour, but I can fully understand he won’t just want to be there to make up the numbers. He’s 100% a winner in his mentality – always has been.
I also remember that stage to Canterbury – Cav, who was relatively unknown then, also crashed and threw the mother of strops after he was taken out by a spectator, if I recall correctly – and it was one of the most breathtaking wins that I have ever seen. You’re not supposed to fall that close to the finish (what was it, 20-25km?), get back on your bike, chase up through the field and then have the temerity to beat the world’s best sprinters like that. It says everything about Robbie that he even dared to do it, let alone actually win.
I speak from bitter experience. You don’t feel the pain of a fall until afterwards, once the race’s finished and the adrenaline’s gone. But I’m guessing Robbie was royally pissed off about the fall and that added additional fire to his belly, and legs.
The first chapter of Robbie’s book is about the 2007 stage win – shows how much it meant to him as well.
But I think I’ve read that he only plans to ride a couple of months into this season before retiring, and taking up a role as Sprint mentor within GreenEdge. Hopefully he has a good TDU.
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