By Bjorn Haake in De Panne
Robbie McEwen is quite happy with his form, but not so happy with how the sprints went in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. When cooling down after the time trial he reflected on the morning stage 3a. "It was a bit frustrating. I got chopped up, as they say, within the last kilometre." He had experienced the same in stage two, saying that "I got boxed in, a bit like yesterday. I wasn't well placed in the last corner, so I didn't sprint."
McEwen echoed the sentiments of others, stressing that the racing in De Panne "is very irregular, to say the least." But while he also pinpointed racers preparing for Flanders, he drew his own conclusions, stating that "there was a bit of wind, but we never raced very hard... There aren't many riders who want to go really deep in De Panne; they just want to ride the kilometres."
The problem with making the race easy is that in the end "everybody is up there, whether they can sprint or not." He also admitted that in the bunch sprints it always "takes a bit of luck."
But other than the frustrating experience with getting boxed in he said that he "is feeling good. I am riding well." He added that he was only 43 seconds off Devolder, which showed that "my condition is good, as I can't time trial," he added with a smile. The Australian emphasised his ability to race hard at the moment, which makes him really look forward to tackle the "two races that I have targeted for this month, Gent-Wevelgem and the Scheldeprijs. My condition is ready, now I just have to do a sprint."
McEwen was looking forward to the months of May, June and July, with the Giro, the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France, explaining that "those are races that suit my characteristics. Recovering day-to-day, the big bunch sprints after long stages. That's what I am best at." And he likes the weather better, too.
The last day in De Panne wasn't too bad then, as it was sunny and reasonably warm. But he put in the race "almost as an afterthought. I am purely here to prepare for Gent-Wevelgem. Riding in the wind and on the small hills. In fact, I was riding for the team on the first day, riding on the front and trying to keep Leif Hoste close in GC, but unfortunately he was injured." McEwen finished in the first main group that day by "going very deep." He felt that his preparation was good, having backed up his performances with good legs the next two days.
"So if I can cross the line first in Gent-Wevelgem then it will have been the perfect preparation," he concluded with a smile.