By Brecht Decaluwé in Wevelgem
Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen rode a strong race and featured in the first group that made it over the Kemmelberg – a moment which is often a key in the Belgian semi-Classic. "On the Kemmelberg I went full gas and afterwards I noticed that I didn't have any team-mates around," McEwen explained to Cyclingnews after the in Gent-Wevelgem.
When asked whether a team-mate could have helped him into a better final position, McEwen agreed. "Of course it would be of some help. It doesn't matter who would've done it, as long as there would be someone. I tried to find my own way in the sprint, but I received a couple of nudges during the build-up. I was in a good position, but I ended up riding in the wind during the final kilometre," McEwen said. "I sat on [Thor] Hushovd's wheel, but he came to a standstill. I tried to get through on the right, but they came from behind and went full gas on the left. I got boxed in and I didn't get out of it."
The 35 year-old Australian is still without a win in the 2008 season after illness and some crashes bothered his build-up to the season (Read recent feature on McEwen). "I haven't been able to think about winning up until now. I hoped for today though, but it didn't happen. Actually I'm ok with the current situation. It's the press that makes a big deal out of it."
Two weeks ago McEwen pointed out that he is keen on winning one of the semi-Classics this season; namely Dwars door Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem and the Scheldeprijs. The first two events were claimed by Sylvain Chavanel and Oscar Freire, so next week's Scheldeprijs is the last chance for McEwen to add a semi-Classic to his already rich palmarès during the Spring Classics season.
Two fast team-mates Jurgen Roelandts and Greg Van Avermaet, were expected to feature alongside McEwen in Gent-Wevelgem, but both young riders were dropped on the Kemmelberg with 37 kilometres to go. "I sat too far back when cornering into the Kemmelberg," Van Avermaet admitted. While the 22 year-old Silence-Lotto rider showed glimpses of his talent during the E3 Prijs Harelbeke where he finished as runner-up behind Arvesen, the Belgian let his team down today. "After being dropped I crashed awkwardly on a roundabout; I tried to get back in front too quickly," Van Avermaet said to Cyclingnews.
Team-mate Jurgen Roelandts gave a similar story. He had clearly learned a lesson today. "I sat too far back on the Kemmelberg. I have to realize that this is a novice mistake; I'm going to keep quiet now."