Robbie McEwen is ready to start his comeback from a serious leg injury and his main goal is to beat fellow sprinter Mark Cavendish. The Australian, who rides for Team Katusha, will start his season again with the Eneco Tour, through the Netherlands and Belgium this week.
McEwen hit a street sign in the second stage of the Tour of Belgium the end of May, shattering his leg and tearing ligaments. He still has two screws in his left knee.
Although the 37-year-old is riding again, he does not expect to be back to full strength until next year. He is already planning to start his season with the Tour Down Under before heading to the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. McEwen will then set his sights on the 2009 World championships, to be held in Geelong, Victoria, Australia.
McEwen has studied Cavendish's sprints this season while recuperating, and thinks that he now knows how to beat his 13-year-younger rival. The time off has allowed him to watch the Briton's sprinting and analyse it. "Being forced on the sidelines to watch, you can learn a fair bit about your rivals," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I did see things that can be useful."
"You have got to be fast, have the teammates, but it also helps to know what your rivals do," he pointed out. "You have to know your opponent, their strengths and weaknesses and try to take advantage of either."
McEwen wouldn't disclose how he thought he could beat Cavendish, but noted that one of the reason's for the younger man's success lay with his team. "His team has been really well organized. They are really well drilled," McEwen said in praise of Team Columbia-HTC. "When you put him on the back of them going into a sprint totally relaxed, not wasting any energy – while all the others are trying to fight for his wheel or ride with one or two teammates against the eight of Columbia – that is a massive advantage."
While getting that kind of help from his own teammates is "probably the hardest thing," McEwen didn't doubt that he still has the speed to beat Cavendish, and was looking forward to a battle of the generations in 2010.
Follow Cyclingnews on Twitter for the very latest coverage of events taking place in the cycling world - twitter.com/cyclingnewsfeed