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Robbie McEwen concerned by lack of Tour sprint stages

CAP FREHEL, France (AFP) – Australian Robbie McEwen said he is concerned about what he feels is a recent trend to reduce victory opportunities to sprinters on the world’s biggest cycling races.

RadioShack team sprinter McEwen is not competing on the world’s premier cycling event this year.

But even if he was he would likely have few chances to add to his tally of 12 stage wins on the race, which organizers have shook up by making the traditional sprinters’ stages harder and adding some uphill finishes for good measure.

In the warm-up races before the Tour — such as the Criterium du Dauphine and the Tour of Switzerland — flat finishes were conspicuous by their absence.

“There has become what I believe is a worrying trend for sprinters at the Tour along with every other race this year — the Giro, Tour de Suisse and a number of others — where there are less and less flat stages for sprinters,” McEwen told the letour.fr website.

“I suppose the organizers are trying to make the races more exciting and make every single day as spectacular as possible with technical and difficult finishes.

“But I get the impression that pure sprinters are being penalized by this approach.”

Flatter stages with finishes suited to bunch sprint have often made up the entire first week of the race.

However, with the likes of Britain’s Mark Cavendish winning 15 stages in three years alone, there have been concerns it was becoming too boring. The formula was deliberately changed by organizers keen to keep fans glued.

After five stages so far, there have been two sprint finishes.

McEwen conceded: “There have been a couple of good stages.”

But he feels that organizers are giving too many opportunities to the climbers and ‘punchers’ — riders who excel at sprinting to victory on shorter uphill finishes.

“(Stage 4) was an interesting final to watch but the thing is, the climbers get plenty of chances at the Tour down in the mountains,” he added.

“They’ve got the Pyrenees and the Alps and a few in between — and now they’re even picking out stages in Brittany to suit the climbers as well — the sprinters are the ones being disadvantaged by that.”

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