Robbie McEwen has travelled to the United States only three times in the past 20 years but his current trek with his son Ewan is the first time the three-time Tour de France green jersey winner hasn't visited in order to compete.
The journey, an extended "boys' trip" to California, has taken the duo sightseeing to several Los Angeles landmarks, and it still has plenty to do with cycling. While his son pedalled to different attractions, McEwen worked in his new position as a "global ambassador" in the InfoCrank booth at the Sea Otter Classic. It's a new power meter offered by Verve Cycling.
"Training with power is something I've always been interested in," said McEwen, 42, before an autograph session. "The left-and-right balance is super important and I've always had an imbalance due to injuries, especially in the past few years.
"I broke my leg in 2009, so my left leg has always been the problem child. A product like this gives you such accurate information of what the imbalance is and with some of the new tweaks it's going to have, it's going to give you even more information about the imbalances you may have. You can know what's going wrong and go about fixing it so you can improve."
McEwen has also taken a keen interest in the recovery of Taylor Phinney, the BMC rider who broke his leg at the 2014 US National Championships.
"I'm friendly with him and I've sort of been keeping an eye on his progress with social media updates quite often," said McEwen. "It's something I am really familiar with after breaking my leg. I know he's going to have a long, tough road to come back and realistically he will probably never be the same as he was.
"But if he can get within a few percentage points, that can still be good enough. If he was fully fit with zero injuries and he could win races when he was 80 per cent, now he's going to have to be 95 to 100 per cent. It's possible and he has a lot of specialists looking after him. But before we start talking about winning stuff, we're just going to have to talk about him just being back."
Following the Sea Otter Classic, McEwen and his 12-year-old son will travel to the San Francisco Bay Area. McEwen wrote on Twitter that he was looking for “someone to take us on a ride."
"A guy tweeted back and said, 'That's my turf. You can ride with me,' " McEwen explained. "The guy was Gary Fisher. I hear cycling in Marin is beautiful and he invented mountain biking. So that should be pretty good.”
The Tour de France Green Jersey
McEwen, who lives with his wife and three children in Australia, continues to work in television commentary for the Australian network SBS. And although he's been away from the Tour de France for the few years, he's well aware of its changes.
The green jersey competition, which McEwen won in 2002, 2004 and 2006, is markedly different. The 12-time Tour de France stage winner is far from enamoured.
"They've gone from two or three sprints worth 6, 4 and 2 points to one big intermediate sprint worth 35 or 40 points," McEwen explained. "But I don't know if that's the best way to do it. It makes the sprinters go after points every day.
"The points can be soaked up by a big three-man breakaway. They're offering points all the way through 25th place, so it makes the sprinters really go for it. But if that intermediate sprint is after a big climb, and the pure sprinters are dropped, bang! They lose 35 or 40 points in one go."
McEwen cites Peter Sagan as having a superior advantage over Marcel Kittel.
"Sagan won it by 300 points [ed 149 points in 2014]; I think they should weigh it more toward guys like Kittel and (Mark) Cavendish," McEwen said. "Cavendish has won, what, 24 or 25 Tour de France stages and he's only won the green jersey once. Marcel Kittel in the last two years has won four stages and he's out-and-out the best sprinter in the race. But he's not even close in the green jersey competition because he can't get over a hill. That he's not even close tells me the green jersey competition needs more work."
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