Robbie McEwen had a hard day at the office on stage five. The winner of the first sprint stage into Canterbury overcame bad luck on that stage when he recovered from a crash, chased back on and then won the day. However, as the days go by, the effects of the crash are hampering his efforts, and on the lumpy parcours from Chablis to Autun, the Australian gave up on any thought of contesting the sprint and finished more than 11 minutes behind with Stuart O'Grady. "I'm having big trouble with my neck, back and knees," he told Cyclingnews, "but today would have been too hard in any case. I did suffer a lot more than normal.".
McEwen's luck ran out after his stage one victory, and on stage two in Gent, where he narrowly avoided the big crash that held up most of the field, but lost enough momentum to finish back in sixth place on the stage won by Quicksteps Gert Steegmans. On stage three he finished seventh in a chaotic sprint which saw the Maillot Jaune take a surprise win.
His narrow escapes continued on stage four to Joigny where he finished 16th. McEwen described the sprint to Cyclingnews, "I wanted to make a run on the left hand side, but two guys came together and nearly crashed themselves. Then something flew off somewhere and cut my arm (again), and one Agritubel guy lost control and was all over the place.
"I needed to get up on the left but there was just no where to go," he described. "When I did get a run, the guys on the front swung across and blocked my run again. There was almost another crash and I hit the wheel of one guy."
The nervous sprints are starting to take their toll on the 35 year-old, who put his confidence level at about "80%" after stage four. He'll have one more chance on stage six to Bourg-en-Bresse before the Tour hits the Alps.