By John-Michael Flynn in Brisbane
Australian Cyclist of the year Robbie McEwen is eyeing this weekend's race one of Queensland's Grand Prix Criterium Series as the first serious hitout in his preparation for the 2006 road season.
Returning to his hometown of Brisbane, McEwen and Davitamon-Lotto team-mate Henk Vogels were guests of honour overnight at an invitation only dinner to launch the Team Spirit Sporting Fellowship initiative.
Hosted by former Olympic swimmer Duncan Arsmtrong, the evening turned out to be a treat for members of Brisbane's cycling community, as the two local heroes spoke candidly and at length about life in the professional peloton. Robbie's sprinting style proved a popular topic during the question and answer session with the two riders. "I just be believe I'm the person who deserves to be on that wheel," McEwen said of his sometimes controversial but often effective sprint tactics. "You don't give it up for anybody."
McEwen and Vogels both appear leaner and sharper, having been back in training now for nearly a month. "I'm seen as a contender for the classics," Vogels said of his 2006 plans. "My team needs me to be ready for then."
Hometown boy McEwen and Vogels who calls the nearby Sunshine Coast home will race before a parochial crowd numbering in the thousands when they hit the circuit around the city's Southbank precinct.