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Australians celebrate trio of victories

Australian cyclists were celebrating a weekend of success with Queensland's Robbie McEwen claiming the first stage of the Tour de France in England while at the Schladming MTB World Cup round in Austria Sam Hill and Tracey Hannah took out the men's and women's downhill finals.

McEwen's win equals the record of Germany's Erik Zabel for the most stage wins by a rider still competing. McEwen won the first of his twelve Tour de France stages in 1999 on the Champs Élysées in Paris. In 2002 he won the stages in Reims and Paris; 2004 in Namur and Guéret; 2005 in Montargis, Karlsruhe and Montpellierin and last year he won in Esch-sur-Alzette, Saint-Quentin and Vitré.

While McEwen was sprinting to victory on a slightly uphill finishing straight in England mountain bikers Hill and Hannah were barreling full speed downhill in Austria. It's the second victory in two weeks for the reigning World Champion Hill, 21, who won the previous round at Monte-Sainte-Anne in Canada.

The West Australian, who rides with the Iron Horse-Monster Energy team, clocked 3'51"44 for the win, a clear five seconds faster than second- placed Gee Atherton of Great Britain. Queensland's Nathan Rennie was eighth in 4'00". Hill, now on 807 points, continues to lead the Downhill Nissan/UCI World Cup series ranking and is 168 points ahead of second ranked Steve Peat of Great Britain.

In the women's downhill final, 19 year-old Tracey Hannah of Queensland, 2006 Junior World Champion, upset her more experienced rivals to win in 4'41"50, ahead of 25 year-old Frenchwoman and World Cup Series leader Sabrina Jonnier, who clocked 4'43"06. The Australian teenager is now ranked fifth on the series standings.

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