By John Trevorrow and Brecht Decaluwé
Robbie McEwen finished sixth in a stage where he was forced into defence more than he might have wanted. Right from the start, the green jersey ordered his team to chase a breakaway. "It was a very challenging day," he said. "Early on I was in a break. Bennati went away over the top of the cat 2 early on Hushovd went across to it and we had to use the whole team to catch it. I mean, I can't let those guys go away down the road and take maximum points in such a big group while I get nothing. It just wasn't an option to let it go. Once we did catch them, my whole team was exhausted. It was a bad moment for us when Landis and Freire were in front; I closed the gap myself and as I got there Freire took off with other three, and there was nobody to close it to them."
McEwen said that things went a bit strange at that point. "Suddenly at that moment the bunch decided that while the guy third in the green jersey competition was going down the road 10 seconds in front, it was time for a piss. But not me, I had to try and chase him. But I couldn't catch them and then I sat up.
"Everybody was mad at me, but I didn't care. As a result the other teams no longer wanted to co-operate with us, so we let the group of four go.
"Whatever criticism there was about the way I rode at that moment…well, I really couldn't give a rat's. I'm defending green, the others aren't. They've got to understand. You can compare it to Cadel going down the road in a breakaway and Landis pulls over for a toilet stop. It ain't going to happen."
When asked if he was very angry about what happened, he inadvertently used a rather relevant phrase. "It gave me the shits, to be honest."
McEwen was then asked if the energy expended today by the team might cost them when they have to help out Evans, Davitamon Lotto's GC contender. "Look, yesterday he went just fine in the mountains," he replied. "Look at it this way, you have to make decisions in a race and you have to follow a certain tactic. When it's time to do something you've got to commit 100 percent…the boys did that today and did a great job. We had to offer everybody up. It wasn't an option to let it go. I was disappointed to see Freire going down the road and for me it was a bad moment to choose to chase after Landis, because then Freire took off and there was nobody else to try and close it down. I had to watch it go down the road."
The Spaniard is one of McEwen's big rivals for green, and so it was a dangerous moment. "It was not ideal but still not a bad situation for me," he continued. "If Freire won the stage, I could still finish fifth which resulted in a small loss of points. Freire finished third and I got sixth, so it's not too bad in the end."