Robbie McEwen is happy with his performance at Tour Down Under, where he made his return to ProTour level racing for the first time since injuring his knee early last season. Concerns had arisen just one week before the South Australian event when McEwen withdrew from the Australian Open Road Championships (AORC) mid-way through the criterium due to concerns over his knee.
"I’m pretty happy with how I’m going considering where I’ve come from with the knee injury and everything," said McEwen. "After a whole seven months out of competition to be competitive like this in a ProTour race, I think I can be pretty pleased with myself."
The Katusha sprinter fractured his tibia and cut through tendons in his knee when he ran into a street sign in the Tour of Belgium last May. He spent the better part of the season trying to rehabilitate the injury, making an aborted attempt to return to racing at the end of July before calling the 2009 season quits.
McEwen’s best placing on a Tour Down Under stage was second to eventual race winner André Greipel (HTC-Columbia) on the stage four to Goolwa. He also claimed a third place in Hahndorf and fourth place in the final stage, which held him secure fourth overall in the race.
"I’m looking forward to getting more racing in my legs and building up a bit more power again," said McEwen. "I’m looking forward to getting back up on the podium again as a race winner.
"I'm happy with where I am at the moment, and if I can keep building on this form and just keep building up the strength in my left leg then I think I can be in for a good season, but its early days," added the Katusha star.
McEwen’s withdrawal from the AORC events came after he aggravated his knee injury by bumping it while doing his laundry. He only returned to racing at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic at the start of this month.
"I've only been back on the bike for three months and probably only six or seven weeks of that has been decent sort of training," he said. "If you told me coming into the Tour Down Under that I'd finish in the top four overall, I would have signed up for that straight away. It has been a very, very long road to come back."
McEwen will continue to build his form over coming months with his first major target for the year to be Milan-Sanremo. The former Tour de France green jersey winner is expected to contest two Grand Tours this season, the first in Italy followed by France in July.