By Les Clarke in Adelaide, South Australia
Tenacity has always been a hallmark of Robbie McEwen's career, and during stage two of the Tour Down Under it came to the fore again. Having collided with a camera held by a spectator in the final 150 metres of the first day - leaving him with heavy bruising and a laceration - he was back on the bike and in the top 10 on day two.
Before the stage start in Hahndorf, McEwen briefly explained the previous day's events. "It shows how in sport you can go from good to bad pretty quickly," he began. "It was a shame, because I was really going for the stage win and was just about to make my big run to the line as Greipel was trying to come past; from the moment I hit the camera it was all over.
"I kept trying a bit, but it was all done. It's a shame, because my form was obviously pretty good," he added.
Many riders may have considered dropping out of the race, but with McEwen's evergreen form at its best and Tour Down Under stage win number 14 on offer, he was lining up in Hahndorf for a crack at the victory.
"Unless it was actually snapped in half I was always going to start today. I think I'll be able to get through, it's just obviously not ideal," he explained.
He sent a gentle reminder to spectators by saying, "Please keep them [cameras] inside the barriers. Maybe some people aren't experienced at bikes races and don't realise how fast we're actually coming and the damage that can be done.
We're really vulnerable; any other sport you see fans behind barriers and fences, they don't get anywhere near the action. Here they're very lucky they can get so close. On the other hand they need to just keep inside the barriers to let the race go on as it should."
McEwen rode to eighth place on the stage, and it was a mark of his tenacity that he was vying for the stage win rather than just try and survive with his injured arm unscathed. "I was still on the front of the group until the last kilometres but I didn't have the legs to challenge for the win today," he explained.
He remained upbeat about his chances of taking another stage at the Tour Down Under, considering the damage done to his arm on day one. "Given my form at the moment, I'd put myself at 85 percent I suppose, or 80 percent. I've still got a little way to go until I've got the get up for a finish like that and go for the win," said McEwen.
"I just didn't quite have the legs but maybe it had a little bit to do with the swelling and trauma to the body… sometimes it makes you feel a little bit average the next day. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have a better day again and go for the win.
"I came through alright. I lost a little bit of time right near the finish – I just sat up and there was a gap between myself and the front part of the group. I'm not really worried about the overall classification; if I see that I'm not going to win the stage I'll roll on through and try to win the next day. We'll have a go tomorrow."