By Anthony Tan in Sydney
Thirteen wins this season including three stage wins in the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France apiece, not to mention his third green jersey - Robbie McEwen has a lot of reasons to believe he'll be crowned 2006 Australian Cyclist of the Year this Friday.
"From what I did this year on the bike, it wouldn't be a surprise so much if I'd won, but it would be a surprise if I win because I won last year," McEwen said to Cyclingnews.
In Sydney as a guest speaker at the launch of the Cronulla International Criterium, to be held a week before Christmas, he appeared indifferent about the award known as 'the Oppy,' named after the great Australian cyclist from the 1920s.
McEwen's first Sir Hubert Oppperman Medal in 2002 came as no surprise. His first maillot vert, his first senior national road title and two Tour de France stage wins were among 19 professional victories. Last year, still very much a winner, McEwen didn't achieve quite the same success; a notable absentee was the green jersey from La Grande Boucle, despite having good reasons for missing out to Norwegian giant Thor Hushovd.
The now 34 year-old won the Oppy anyway. The announcement caught him totally by surprise - he'd taken off his jacket and bow-tie, expecting someone else. But he shouldn't have; the pint-sized Queenslander was still, by some margin, the best-performing cyclist from Australia.
Said McEwen, "The award's something that comes secondary; if you get an award, okay, good - but the most important thing is that I keep doing my job on the bike and win the races I wanted to win.
"Whether I'm judged to win the award or not... It would be nice, it'd be an honour to win it - but I also have the point of view that I won last year and... It depends who makes the decision, I suppose."
Regardless of how he feels about awards and a little extra recognition, it would take a betting man and a brave judge to choose any other way.
"You don't do the training and sacrifices so you can win an award. So I hope I win, but if I don't, it's no disaster, is it?" he quipped.
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