By Shane Stokes
With just over a week to go until the end of the 2006 Tour de France, Robbie McEwen is looking in a very strong position to take his third maillot vert. At the end of stage 13 in Montélimar his margin over second-placed rider Tom Boonen is a comfortable 30 points, with Oscar Freire 45 in arrears.
This margin is over double that held by riders at the equivalent point in the five previous Tours de France. At Ax-3 Domaines in 2005, eventual winner Thor Hushovd was just 14 points clear of Stuart O'Grady, with McEwen 22 points down in third.
At Plateau de Beille in 2004, McEwen was 9 points ahead of Erik Zabel and 15 up on Hushovd. Looking further back, 2003 winner Baden Cooke was 8 points ahead of McEwen and 24 up on Hushovd at Plateau de Bonascre, while twelve months previously the total in Béziers saw McEwen exactly level with Zabel and 59 clear of O'Grady.
Finally, in Saint-Lary-Soulan (Pla d'Adet) in 2001, O'Grady was himself leading, holding a 13 point advantage over eventual winner Zabel. Lance Armstrong was 44 points back in third place.
Interestingly, McEwen's haul after two weeks of racing is greater than Hushovd's final total in 2005, and also either exceeds or equals the winning total in 2003 and 2001. McEwen has racked up a considerable 252 points this year; twelve months ago, Hushovd won with 194, while Cooke amassed 216 in 2003 and Erik Zabel finished on 252 in 2001.
McEwen previously took the green jersey in 2002 and 2004. Two years ago he ended the race on 272 points, 25 clear of Thor Hushovd. In 2002 he racked up 280 points as compared to Zabel's 261.