Adelaide, Australia – Australian sprint ace Robbie McEwen began his season in his usual style by snagging a win at the Tour Down Under Classic Criterium here on Tuesday.
McEwen, a two-time winner of the Tour de France green points jersey, comfortably held off Italian Daniele Colli (Liquigas-Bianchi)in a bunch sprint at the end of the 25-lap, 50 kilometer inner-city course. The criterium is considered a “prelude” to the Tour Down Under and has no bearing on the race standings.
The Tour Down Under, a five-stage event, is held around Adelaide and the surrounding area and begins with a 148 kilometer stage on Wednesday.
McEwen, one of the most prolific sprinters in the European peloton, handed his Davitamon-Lotto team welcome confirmation of his early season form despite the race missing a number of the rivals he is usually up against.
Other top sprinters, including Alessandro Petacchi, Erik Zabel and Tom Boonen aren’t competing in Adelaide, but last year’s Tour de France green jersey winner, Thor Hushovd, is here.
Hushovd, however, didn’t contest the sprint on Tuesday, instead opting to lead-out his Crédit Agricole teammate Mark Renshaw for the final bunch sprint. Hushovd appeared to begin his effort too early and Renshaw finished sixth behind fellow Australian Allan Davis.
Davis is the Liberty Seguros team’s main sprinter and is looking for a first victory on the race on what is his eighth participation.
McEwen, who claimed prior to the race he was not in the best of form, looks like he may now add to his race record of 11 stage wins in the coming days.
“I reached a nice top speed down the finish straight – 75 kilometers an hour, not too bad,” he said.
He then celebrated by doing one of his trademark wheelies, and milked the applause of the crowd, most of whom are well used to seeing him winning here.
“I think I’ve won four of the last five [races in Adelaide] – I love this little circuit, it’s a great start to the week here in Adelaide,” McEwen said. “Now I can just move on from tonight – this is a separate race, and I’ve won my first one-day race of the season, so I’m going to move on and try and win stages of the Tour Down Under.”
Tour Down Under Classic Criterium
1. Robbie McEwen (Aus), Davitamon-Lotto, 50km in 1:01:06 (49.1kph)
2. Daniele Colli (I), Liquigas-Bianchi
3. Simone Cadamuro (I), Milram
4. Dimitri De Fauw (B), Chocolade Jacques
5. Allan Davis (Aus), Liberty Seguros
6. Mark Renshaw (Aus), Credit Agricole
7. Luca Paolini (I), Liquigas-Bianchi
8. Eros Capecchi (I), Liquigas-Bianchi
9. Matthew Goss (Aus), South Australia.com-AIS
10. Alexandre Usov (Blr), Ag2r Prevoyance
11. Hilton Clarke (Aus), Navigators Insurance
12. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Sp), Liberty Seguros
13. Sebastien Chavanel (F), Bouygues Telecom
14. Pierre Drancourt (F), Bouygues Telecom
15. Aaron Kemps (Aus), Liberty Seguros
16. Elia Rigotto (I), Milram
17. Walter Beneteau (F), Bouygues Telecom
18. Samuel Dumoulin (F), Ag2r Prevoyance
19. Jens Renders (B), Chocolade Jacques
20. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Sp), Liberty Seguros, all s.t.