Robbie McEwen, coming off his highly successful Pro Tour season, will head back to his native land this week for Australia’s oldest stage race, the Jayco Herald Sun Tour. McEwen, 34, is in career best form, coming off of a fifth place in the world championships only two weeks ago in Austria. This season, he took three stages in both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France and his third green jersey for his Pro Tour team Davitamon-Lotto, but will line up for the Sun Tou with the Australian national team.
Dave Sanders, VIS Coach and manager of the Australian national team, was exited at the prospect of working with McEwen. "It is a privilege for all the cyclists and the public to get to race against, and watch, the best of the best, Sanders said. "The fact that riders of the caliber of McEwen, Gerrans and Vogels are so keen to race here shows just how Australian cycling is evolving".
McEwen last rode the Herald Sun Tour in 2001, and has captured seven stage victories there. He made the decision to ride the tour after a long season in Europe, because he wants to make a contribution to one of Australia’s great bike races. "I want to ride for the national team in a Tour, which I never get the chance to do. You ride in the world championships and Olympics for the Australian team, but they are one-day races, not a Tour, so it will be a different experience."
Of course, McEwen’s presence in the Australian team begs the question as to who will be riding for the overall honours in the Australian team, given Simon Gerrans’ position as defending champion. "Obviously I’ll be after stage wins - we’ll work out the tactics once we all get together."
Last year, Gerrans described his Sun Tour win as the highlight of his career. He went on to claim victory in the Tour Down Under in January before returning to Europe with his French team Ag2R. His team had hoped to return to Victoria to defend Gerrans’ title, but illness and injury prevented them from sending a squad. Instead, Gerrans will wear the national team colours with McEwen when the tour starts in on Sunday. They will still have strong team support from Henk Vogels, Matt Wilson, Trent Lowe, Trent Wilson and Tony Mann.