Textbook sprint from McEwen
Queensland's Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) executed a textbook final sprint to claim Stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) overnight and in the process elevated himself to the race lead.
McEwen, 32 is the second Australian to wear the coveted 'maglia rosa' leader's pink jersey in this year's Giro after Brett Lancaster (Ceramiche-Panaria) kicked off the Australian assault with victory in Saturday's prologue.
McEwen, who was second yesterday, claimed the Stage 2 win at the end of the 182km route from Cantanzaro Lido through the Calabria region to Santa Maria del Cedro by positioning himself perfectly and powering home on the final four kilometre straight run to the finish line.
In 2002 McEwen abandoned the Giro to return to Belgium for the birth of son Ewan and today will wear the pink leader's jersey to celebrate his son's third birthday.
"I'm really happy with the stage win and even more so with the honour of being able to wear the jersey for at least a day," said McEwen who has also worn the leader's yellow jersey in the Tour de France. "It's going to be pretty tough to defend it today so I'm going to make the most of it while I can."
The reigning Australian Road Champion now has an eight second lead over Olympic champion and Stage 1 winner Paolo Bettini (Quick.step) and also leads the points and most combative classifications.
The stage wasn't without controversy however with Italian sprint star Alessandro Petacchi accusing McEwen and Estonian rider Jaan Kirsipuu (Credit Agricole) of conspiring against him in the final sprint. Petacchi finished fourth on the stage. The accusation has been described as rubbish by McEwen and many of the other Australians in the race.
"Basically he's just whinging and there was no suggestion Kirsipuu should take someone out of the way for me," said McEwen. "If his (Petacchi's) team (Fassa Bortolo) is leading him out and other riders are able to get along side of him or past him then his train isn't doing it's job and going fast enough.
"In fact someone was trying to bump Kirspiuu out of the way but they couldn't shift him because he's a big solid guy and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time for an arm chair ride behind him in the final 150 metres," said McEwen. "Well as much of an armchair ride as you can get at 70km/h.
"It was a straight, nice, clean finish."
FDJeux.com's Baden Cooke crossed in 5th place and is now ninth overall at 33 seconds to McEwen while fellow Australian Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) came home seventh.
Stage 3 is 205 kilometres to from Diamante to Giffoni Valle Piana with the summit of the only categorised climb of the day coming just nine kilometres from the finish. But Stage 4 has McEwen eyeing another victory.
"Tomorrow's a flat stage with a tricky finish unique to the Giro," said McEwen. It's a three kilometre downhill with many, many hairpin turns which bottoms out 700 metres from the finish line.
"If I can be at the front at the start of the descent then I might be able to get away," said McEwen. "but there'll probably be a posse of Australians up there as well.
The full Australian contingent competing in the 2005 Giro d'Italia is Stuart O'Grady and Matt White (Cofidis), Robbie McEwen, NIck Gates and Henk Vogels (Davitamon-Lotto), Baden Cooke, Matthew Wilson and Mark Renshaw (FDJeux.com), Brett Lancaster (Ceramiche Panaria), Trent Wilson and Russell Van Hout (Colombia Selle Italia) and Rory Sutherland (Rabobank).
For further information please contact:
Gennie Sheer, Sheer Rhetoric - Media Manager, Cycling Australia
Mobile: 0418 863 533
For rider profiles please visit the Cycling Australia website - www.cycling.org.au