Robbie McEwen, three-time winner of the Tour de France green jersey, finally seems to be hitting top form just in time for the final selections for July's big event.
The Australian topped the bunch sprint on the fifth stage at the Tour de Suisse, but unfortunately was racing for fourth place as the breakaway led by stage winner Marcus Burghardt (BMC) stayed clear to the finish.
McEwen told Cyclingnews that he was very happy with his ride today. "It's a pity we didn't pull the break back, but that's racing and those guys deserved to go for the win."
Despite having just one win under his belt, the Trofeo Mallorca in February, McEwen has already been informed that he will be on Katusha's Tour squad. "I have shown that my condition is very good and I'm ready for the Tour. The team will be officially announced by the end of the Tour de Suisse."
Unlike the previous day's stage finish, there was no acrobatics necessary on the rainy stage to Frutigen. McEwen said he was lucky not to be involved in the massive pile-up on yesterday's stage that took down a large portion of the peloton, saying he "looked back to see the carnage and wondered how the hell I got through".
He unflinchingly placed the blame for the crash on HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish, who came across into Heinrich Haussler (Cerevelo) and took dozens of riders down in the resulting fall.
"There's a fine line between right and wrong in sprinting," McEwen said, "and it was definitely crossed yesterday."
The riders staged a brief protest at the start of today's stage to send a message to Cavendish not only for causing the crash, but for reacting to criticism by spitting at Haussler (an incident McEwen did not himself witness).
"The one minute delay at the start today was a signal from his peers that what happened yesterday, the spitting incident after the crash in particular, is not acceptable and I'm sure he understands the message."
Cavendish has not been winning this season with the ease that he experienced last year, and McEwen thinks the pressure has gotten to him.
"Andre Greipel is doing very well again this season and is pushing to take over Cav's role for the Tour," McEwen said. "[Cavendish] has gotten used to winning a lot in the last couple of years and things have gone very smoothly for him. But a pro athlete has to learn and accept that every year is not the same and how to deal with setbacks physically and mentally.
"He still has the talent and the speed. He has to figure out the best way to get back to his best and that seems to be by trial and error at the moment. He's a young guy who came up very quickly and is discovering new aspects about cycling and himself. He has many years left in front of him as a pro and for sure many victories."
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