I for one was a little sad to see one of cycling’s great characters leave the peloton on Sunday at the final stage of the Tour of California. Robbie McEwen has said his final farewell to racing around the globe on two wheels, after 17 years in the pro peloton Robbie is retiring.
The colourful Aussie was a true champ. Sure the past few years may have been a bit quiet on the winning front, but at 39 years of age you can understand why his fast twitch muscle fibers aren’t firing quite as quick as when he joined the pro European peloton back in 1996.
But fear not, he’s not heading back to his stomping ground in Brisbane to drink VB and reminisce about the glory days, nope he’s taking up a management position with the current team Orica-GreenEdge. He’s going to be the man who will show Gossy where he can improve (and no doubt take the scalp of Cav a few times along the way).
Robbie was known as an aggressive rider, not afraid of much. When you come from a BMX back ground it’s understandable.
You could see this from his incredible pace and bike handling skills in the sprints. Cavendish got massive amounts praise for his bike handling skills in the final sprint on stage 13 of the Giro this year, but look back at some of Robbies maneuvers and his scrabbling for wheels in the final meters of some of the biggest races and it was a regular thing for him. His skill level was second to none.
He’s been up against all the big boys of the sprinting world over the years, Chippolini, Zarbel, Boonen, Petacchi and pretty much come out on top on many occasions.
Young and fresh faced his first European team was Rabobank, he stayed there for 3 seasons taking 24 wins in total, including his first Tour stage win in 1999. From there he jumped to the now defunct Domo-FarmFrites for two seasons. Then in 2002 he moved to the Belgium team Lotto-Adecco, here he stayed for 7 seasons through their several name changes and some shocking looking team kits. But here is where he hit his stride, and seemed to be comfortable with the team management and dynamics, well for a good lot of it at least. Three overall Tour Green jerseys and two national champs plus loads of other of quality wins. It wasn’t until a Mr Evans joined Lotto that things stared to go sour. He had the wins and shown he was a man worth working for at the Tour, but with a GC contender moving to the team in 2005 his support was cut back and the wins didn’t come along as much. He had to look after his self, not too much of a problem though as he’s one clever rider.
So in 2009 he headed to the Russian team of Katusha, staying for two seasons and taking 5 wins in total. From the onset the fit never seemed quite right. It always looked like he just left Lotto due to the GC/ Tour problems. Plus have you ever heard of an Australian wanting to visit Russia? No me neither.
For the 2011 season it was looking good, he had signed on with what was going to be Australia’s first real Pro Tour team, the Team Pegasus set up, but things went pear shaped. The team didn’t even see the start of the year , it fell apart before a pedal could be turned in anger. All the riders were left high and dry with out teams. Luckily Radioshack came to the rescue, the jersey had a massive “R” on it, so they had to take him really. It looked a good fit. He had a good season there taking three wins. Not bad for a member of the old guard taking on the likes of the new bread of sprinters, Greipel, Cav, Boom and the rest.
Then 2012 swung by and there was only one team that was right for him to be with, GreenEdge. The first Australian WorldTour team in the history of cycling. A pretty perfect place to end his career.