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By Justin Davis, Copyright Agence France Presse 2004
Australian Robbie McEwen couldn’t hide his joy after holding off the threat of Norwegian Thor Hushovd as he claimed back the Tour de France green jersey for the race’s points competition on Sunday.
McEwen, flanked by his wife and his son Ewan, admitted he’d missed his family over three weeks of tough racing at the end of which he picked up two stages and the green jersey he won for the first time in 2002. “It’s really special. It’s been a few week and I miss them. I’ve been looking forward to this day to see my wife and my son, and to top it off I win the green jersey,” said McEwen. Belgian Tom Boonen, of the Quick Step team, won the final stage at the Champs-Élysées to claim his second stage of the race as Lance Armstrong picked up a record sixth yellow jersey.
McEwen, who last year lost the green jersey to Australian Baden Cooke on the final stage into Paris, however played down the suggestion that it makes him the best sprinter in the world.
“It’s hard to say on any given day you’re the best sprinter in the world,” McEwen said. “Today Boonen would have the right to say it because he won the stage, but when you come to Paris, especially defending the green jersey, you have a priority – and I was just looking at Hushovd and making sure I beat him.
“In the end, it’s funny but I wasn’t even really thinking about the stage win in the last couple of hundred meters, just beating Hushovd. When I got to the line I didn’t even care what place I got – I knew I’d beaten Hushovd and managed to keep the green jersey.”
The 32-year-old Lotto team sprinter, originally from Brisbane, will now return to Belgium to be greeted by the thousands of local fans who have taken him as one of their own.
“It’s a lot of stress when you go into this competition and in a way it’s good I didn’t make it a priority,” McEwen said. “I came here to win a stage because last year I left empty handed. In the first week I won two stages, and that really took the pressure off me. I was feeling relaxed defending the green. I’m happy it’s over.”
“I just want to thank everybody at home for the support they’ve given me – we don’t really see how much coverage it gets at home. So for everyone in Australia, it’s been great coming here and doing our best for you guys.”