Surprised maybe, but when one takes a good look at Robbie McEwen's 2005 season, the 33 year-old was a deserving winner of the Sir Hubert Opperman medal as 2005 Australian Cyclist of the Year, writes Anthony Tan.
His season in a nutshell: fifteen victories that included his second Australian road title, the GP Fourmies and Paris-Brussels semi-classics, a stage win at the Tour of Qatar, Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt and Tour de Suisse, and three stage wins apiece at the Tour Down Under, Giro d'Italia and, of course, the Tour de France.
"What makes me happy is it's hard to pick between 2002, 2004 and 2005 - similar results in all three years, but under different circumstances each time," says McEwen to Cyclingnews, asked if he still rates 2002 as his best year ever, the year he earned his first 'Oppy'.
"It's hard to say... 2002 was the real, absolute breakthrough, 2004 was coming back after a slightly ordinary 2003 and performing like I did at the Tour de France with a bad injury where I broke my back. This year, I turned 33 and people started to say, 'Well, he's 33... is he going to slow down, is he just as quick this year?' or 'Petacchi, he can't be beaten' or 'Boonen, he's the young guy coming up and no one can beat him' - and I beat both those guys during the course of this season - they beat me too - but I had another very good season, reconfirming what I'd done last year."
Still, McEwen was certain he wasn't going to win: "Like I said, I didn't even put my jacket on, didn't have my shirt done up... I was just sitting in my chair waiting to see who it was going to be."
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