McEwen favourite for Tour Down Under overall, says organiser

Aussie sprinter recovering from disastrous season, to start 2010 at home

Australian Robbie McEwen is a favourite for overall victory at the Tour Down Under, according to race organiser Mike Turtur. He has won the most stages in the race's history, but is battling back from a mid-season crash.

"Robbie is one of the fastest sprinters in the world and he'll be a contender for the sprint jersey as well as overall honours," said Turtur in a press release.

The 12th edition of the Tour Down Under starts January 17 and runs through January 24. McEwen has raced in all but two editions (1999, 2001) and has won a total of 12 stages in the event. He finished second overall in 2004, 1'13" behind winner Patrick Jonker.

Nevertheless, 37 year-old McEwen might have a tough time at the race. He hit a street sign with his left knee in Tour of Belgium stage two May 28 this year. The crash fractured his shinbone near the knee and sliced through ligaments.

Though he returned to finish second in a criterium, the crash ended his season early and required three operations. McEwen is now back in Australia and training. He rode 150 kilometres last week, according to his postings on Twitter.

"It wouldn't be the Tour Down Under without Robbie," continued Turtur. "He is fast, competitive and always ready to put on a show in front of a home crowd."

Alexandr Pliuschin, Pavel Brutt, Denis Galimzyanov, Joan Horrach, Sergey Klimov and Stijn Vandenbergh will join McEwen at the Tour Down Under.

It's the second year for Katusha to participate in the race, where last year it made its debut as a team.

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