Robbie McEwen (Katusha) couldn’t even remain with the grupetto on the Tour de France’s stage to Col du Tourmalet, yet the Australian sprinter celebrated with a wheelie as he crested the climb more than 30 minutes down on stage winner Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank). The celebration was due to the fact McEwen survived the Tour’s mountain stages, in less than ideal circumstances, and now believes he can claim a sprint stage win.
“You can't see too far with the fog here, but I can see Paris,” McEwen said. “The Tour is not over yet. Tomorrow there's a flat stage, with the chance on a bunch sprint. I hope I can recover well. Today I was going better. It was my best day since Brussels. That's something to start with but there's more work to do. It's not over.”
McEwen’s arrival atop Tourmalet was inside the time limit, but he was 31:39 minutes behind as the 161st person to cross the line. Having survived injury and the Tour’s mountains, McEwen is ready to see if he can add one more – possibly final – stage victory to his palmares.
“I want to cash-in all the work I did and the suffering I went through. I came here to win a stage. There's two more flat stages to come, so that would mean there's two more chances for that win,” McEwen said.
Today’s flat stage to Bordeaux is often considered an arrival town for the sprinters, although it's been a long time since the stages that finished there actually finished in a bunch sprint. The time trial on Sunday doesn't suit McEwen's sprinter legs but on Sunday he should be able to stretch his legs on the Champs Elysées against the likes of Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) and Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) – who have all won stages at this year’s Tour.
McEwen had been finishing high in the race’s early sprints until a crash after the finish line on stage six in Gueugnon looked like it could end McEwen’s Tour. First it was expected McEwen would pull out right away, and then later he was expected not to make it over the Alps. McEwen managed to survive those stages and ever since his condition has gradually improved.