GreenEdge's entry onto the UCI Pro Tour for this season has come just in time for Robbie McEwen. The veteran Australian has been given the chance to finish his long and distinguished career with a home-based team, and when Cyclingnews caught up with him at the Tour of Qatar he couldn't hide his joy at being involved, and his pride at the great start the team made last month at the Tour Down Under. He has found the ideal platform for his swansong in the sport.
"It’s awesome to reach this stage of my career and be able to ride for an Australian team," he said. "I always thought that an Australian team would eventually make it into the ProTour but I wasn’t sure whether it would happen during my career. Time was running out I guess but now it has happened I couldn’t be happier to have the final phase of my career with a home-based team. Fortunately for me and for Australian cycling it has arrived already. I’m just really proud and grateful to be a part of it."
The 39-year-old, who is due to retire in May and move to a role as technical adviser with the team, has had time to reflect on his squad's debut performance at the Tour Down Under in January, when a co-ordinated and sustained team effort ensured that Simon Gerrans delivered GC victory on home soil. It was a debut that the scriptwriters would have imagined.
"The main priority all along was to win the overall classification with Simon Gerrans, and to achieve our target in front of our own fans was amazing," McEwen said. "We knew he was in very good form so we went into the race with the overall classification as our main focus. With Matthew Goss having had some small knee problems in December and also focusing a bit further into the season and the classics, he wasn’t going quite as well at that stage as he had been the previous year. So that strengthened the focus on the overall GC for Gerro. We were all 100% behind him and the team performance overall was perfect from that point of view. We did what we had to do every day and it brought the right result. It was perfect."
Turning his attention to the Tour of Qatar, McEwen said that he felt that he had just about had enough time to recover from the Tour Down Under, which finished in Adelaide, and that the weather would be a key factor in the outcome of the race.
"I feel ok after Adelaide. It was a really tough week, the course was hard and it was very hot," he said. "At the moment I feel ok but it’s the first day and we’ll know more when it’s over. I just hope that we can push on from the Tour Down Under and continue this team’s great start.
"I’ve been here twice before, but not for a few years. It can be quite a stressful race when there’s a lot of wind so we’ll have to see how the conditions are. If the wind is strong then it’s always an aggressive race. It’s pancake flat, so the major obstacle is the breeze. If it’s calm then you’re likely to get a load of bunch sprints. There’s always a lot of sprinters here and all their helpers so it gets pretty crowded at the front of the race coming into the finishes. But it’s a good opportunity for teams to work on new combinations."
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