Veteran sprinter counts down with Cyclingnews
As Robbie McEwen rides his final Tour Down Under, the man who has won more stages than any takes a look through the archives to select his top five moments from his 11 appearances at the event.
It's not a win, but for me it was a pretty massive achievement. Coming back to the race in 2010 when I was riding with Katusha. It was my first race in seven months after I broke my leg in 2009. While I didn't win a stage I managed to finish fourth overall and take some good WorldTour rankings points so for me that was huge.
I really didn't know how I was going to go after breaking my leg. I'd been training, but I didn't know where I stood. Realistically that should have been a career-ending injury and to come back at the Tour Down Under and I was competitive in the sprints, I was right up there and then I also got over Willunga and defended myself. I was really proud of that to come back after such a horrific injury to the most important moving part of your whole body as a cyclist.
4... When I won the Willunga stage in 2002
I won four stages that year. I was probably riding too well and threw away an opportunity to win the race overall. But I was just flying around, and then I got in one break, we got caught, next one went, stayed away and they won the overall and I wasn't in it.
That year I felt like I could do whatever I wanted in the race. I could go with anybody, anywhere. I could out-sprint them; I could almost out-climb everybody and I ended up winning the Willunga stage by 15 lengths. I thought, ‘Wow', that actually feels pretty cool winning a tough stage like that.
3... Pulling on the leader's jersey as national champion
It happened twice but in 2005 I came in as national champion, I won the opening crit, leader's jersey and I won again in the leader's jersey in Tanunda. That was a really cool two days to come in and just dominate the start of the race.
2... Letting Pat go
Again not a win. I finished second overall in 2004 when Pat Jonker rode his very last race and won it. I was just really happy for him. We'd been teammates, we'd ridden together a lot and he was a really good friend. I finished second on the final GC.
I don't quite remember where the finish was on the very first day, but it was quite a tough stage. We started up the Gorge and being the first day there was no leader yet and I was saying to Patty, "I reckon an early break would stand a very good chance of actually staying away today, so I reckon you should have a go. From the start, go for the monster breakaway, go for the marathon."
He looked at me and said, "Really?"
If he got away, who was going to chase?
I said: "You go and I'll slot into the gap behind you and I'll let the gap go."
Patty went, two blokes jumped with him off the front they went. They won by a minute. I'd shot myself in the foot because I ended up finishing second by less than a minute. But I was really, really happy for him and I was then proud of my ride through the rest of the week. Best of the rest. I was coming at Patrick and eating away at his lead but it was good to also finish up there on GC.
1... Riding the Lance Armstrong comeback wave
A really nice one for me was 2009 when I'd just joined Katusha and it was the Cancer Council Classic, Lance's comeback year. The estimate was 138,000 people, it even gives you goosebumps now, the crowd was enormous and I won the crit. The place went off like a bomb. It was unreal.
At the barriers people were 10 and 15 deep just cheering, yelling your name out and you've just won the first international race of the year. That was a really big buzz – just because of the hype. People were screaming their heads off for the full hour that we were racing; it was super fast and intense. The crowd was going crazy and I just fed off that.
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