Robbie McEwen (Davitamon Lotto) found the technical finish of the Tour de Suisse's longest day to his liking as he carried the white green and gold Australian champion's jersey across the line in first place in Bad Zurzach yesterday. McEwen beat out Daniele Colli (Liquigas-Bianchi) and Aurelien Clerc (Phonak) for the win, with other top sprinters such as Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Baden Cooke (Francaise de Jeux) not far behind.
"It was a technical finish; it was something that suited me with a few corners and a little bit uphill," said McEwen after the stage. "Just at the end, before the last corner, I got a little bit caught, had to brake slightly and then go again. But I was able to wriggle my way out of the first two guys through the corner, and the last 50 metres, I was able to enjoy my sprint... it was a nice day out (smiles)."
McEwen said he was especially pleased to win here because of the quality of the field. "I think if you look at what races are on in June, most sprinters have chosen this race because the sprinters get a few opportunities, he said. " [At] the Dauphiné, you got one chance and the rest was in the Alps, so most of the good sprinters have chosen here.
"If you look at the list, there's myself, there's Boonen, there's Cooke. Eisel already won a stage and he's a fast guy. Freire, of course, who's more looking to test himself to see how he's going; I was talking to him the other day and I don't know what we'll call it, but his 'undercarriage' is not too good.
"But I think the list of sprinters here is quite impressive, and this close to the Tour, everybody's going pretty good. So I think a stage win at the Tour de Suisse with this field is pretty worthy."
McEwen doesn't intend this to be his last win of the week either. Today's stage is also one for the sprinters. "I think I've got another chance [on Wednesday] and perhaps on stage seven as well," said McEwen.
And then, of curse, there's the Tour de France. "It's good to keep winning and it's great to test my legs with a win ready for the Tour de France," he said. "As ever I'll be going for a sprint win in the first week of the Tour and then I'll keep an eye on the points competition."
The long stage was animated by a three-rider break that included McEwen's team-mate Bart Dockx along with Allan Johansen (CSC) and Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo). The trio got away with 136km to go and built a maximum lead of 7 minutes 20 seconds with 66 kilometres to go. The peloton was reluctant to chase in earnest and it looked like they might stay away until Quick Step powered the pursuit to try and set things up for Boonen. When it became obvious that the gap was going to close, Davitamon Lotto contributed and the escapees were caught with 4km to go.
Race leader Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) and second-placed Bradley McGee (Francaise des Jeux) both finished in the pack, so there was no change in the overall lead.