An interview with Robbie McEwen, July 6, 2005
After being soundly beaten by Tom Boonen twice in a row, and then disqualified for irregular sprinting, Davitamon-Lotto's Robbie McEwen had a few scores to settle today in Montargis. In particular, he wanted to put to rest the idea that Tom Boonen was on another level, as Cyclingnews' Anthony Tan reports.
When Cyclingnews spoke with Aussie über-sprinter Robbie McEwen before the start of today's fifth stage, it was a solemn, serious individual in Chambord.
The 33 year-old was still unhappy with his relegation that happened after the finish of Stage 3, where the jury of commissaires ruled he had hindered fellow countryman Stuart O'Grady in the run-in to the line. "I've said it a few times, I've watched the pictures enough times in slow motion, and there's other people who definitely know what they're talking about agree with me," said McEwen in his defence.
"One of them is Sean Kelly, he's not a nobody, he won the green jersey five times; Eddy Merckx won the Tour five times and he agrees with me as well. It's a pretty harsh decision, and it's put a pretty big hole in the green jersey competition - it's not going to be half as interesting as it has been the last couple of years."
"The other day in Tours, I didn't speak to any journalists. I just want to make clear I didn't try and place blame anywhere; I didn't make the first move and it didn't affect the classification of the stage. I was more disappointed not at the actions of any other rider, but more the decision of the jury - they should've just let sleeping dogs lie."
But it wasn't just the outcome last Monday in Tours that bothered him. Irrespective of what happened there, it was also that he had already been beaten by Tom Boonen two out of two times, and from what people had seen so far, it appeared the Belgian was on another level.
"No he's not, no he's not... I'll show you he's not," McEwen said to Cyclingnews just before he signed in for the day. "We've just got to control the breakaway today."
And that they did. It was unified effort by Davitamon-Lotto, spurred on by the fact that each member of the team including McEwen still believed in him. "I think you're misinterpreting that he's [Boonen's] on another level," said his team-mate and former USPRO champion Fred Rodriguez to Cyclingnews.
"I think Robbie's a bit faster than he is, but we've had some mechanicals and misjudging of the sprint. The day I was leading out Robbie [Stage 3], I probably should have left him another 50 metres closer to the line, but my gear wasn't going into the 11, so basically he got boxed in by Boonen and really didn't sprint the day he got DQ'd. And the day before [Stage 1], his 11 wasn't going in, so he wasn't going full speed when he jumped.
"It looks like Boonen has the advantage, but it's not true, and we're going to try and prove that wrong today."
As Mario Aerts, Johan Vansummeren, Wim Vansevenant, Christophe Brandt and Axel Merckx completed their work in bringing back the four-man break, Leon van Bon and Rodriguez took over in the final kilometres to set up McEwen in the last dash for cash. Van Bon left him and Rodriguez with under a kilometre to go, Fast Freddy left McEwen with 200 to go, and McEwen left the others in his wake at the finish line, repeatedly pointing at his jersey, with emotions running sky-high.
Said McEwen after the stage: "When I crossed the line and I was pointing, that had two meanings: I'm the fastest one here today, and this team's the one that deserves a stage win.
"In a moment like that, when you haven't just won a stage of the Tour, but after a few days, where it's been tough... For the amount of work my team's been doing the last few days - every time there's been a flat stage, our team's been on the front, us and Quick.Step, basically - our guys really deserved a stage win to pay them back for all their work."
However, winning today can't change what happened to him two days ago or its consequences, and it'll be a mammoth task for the pocket rocket to take a third maillot vert in Paris. "Just because I won the today doesn't change my mind about the other day," he said.
"I haven't really changed my mind [about the green jersey]. This morning, I was 44 points behind; this afternoon, I'm 45 points behind. Basically, I'd have to hope for a miracle to come back into contention, or Tom would have to have some serious bad luck, which I also don't wish upon him.
"I'm here hunting for stage wins now. Nothing's impossible - anything can happen - but I'm not counting on it."