Robbie McEwen is in his last race as a professional at the Amgen Tour of California, and after kicking off his experience in the pro peloton in 1995 at the Tour Dupont he hopes to make it to Los Angeles to finish his career on the opposite coast. Yet the looming mountains will provide a formidable obstacle for the three-time Tour de France green jersey winner.
"I'm trying to get to that last stage in L.A. Today shouldn't be a problem," he said of the time trial, "It's a 25 percent time limit, but the two days after this are seriously hard. There are big mountains, small time cuts, and it is a very hard race."
McEwen will transition from a racer to a technical advisor for the Orica GreenEdge team, with his first big focus being the Tour de France where he will fine-tune the sprint stages and lead-out for Matthew Goss.
"Once this race is over, I think first I'll go home and enjoy some time with the family, and not having to get up early and get out and smash myself on the bike to make sure I'm in good enough shape to get through the races."
McEwen began his career back on the east coast in 1995 at the Tour Dupont when he was still an amateur racing with the Australian national program. "That was the first big race where we got to race the big name pros. I think they called it a Pro Am just so we could race. The rest were all pros, and we were up against it. We had a great time, and that was my first ever trip to the States. I haven't been back since 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics. It's been a long time in between there."
It was only coincidence that led him to end his career in the same country in which it started, however. He signed on with GreenEdge as a rider but with the agreement he would transition into a sprint coach for Matt Goss and his lead-out train, but McEwen said he still had something to offer on the bike first. "I was pretty keen to ride because I still enjoy racing, but they offered me a possition as technical advisor, in simple terms 'sprint coach' also working with the young guys, mentoring and guiding them.
"They wanted me to be done riding before the Tour de France so I could go into that role as technical advisor, going scouting the finishes at the Tour. I started looking at the calendar to see where would be a good place to stop and I didn't want it to be a little, nondescript race. I wanted to go out in a big event, even if it is a very tough event, with very limited opportunities for a rider like myself. I thought this would be a good one. After the three Grand Tours, the Tour of California is one of the biggest races on the calendar."