Robbie McEwen’s hopes of capping a glittering career with victory in the World Road Race Championships in his native Australia have been brought to an end with the news that the country’s selectors have cut him from the team that will contest the race in Geelong, near Melbourne, in October, where compatriot Cadel Evans of BMC Racing will be defending his title.
The 38-year-old Katusha sprinter, who has won the Tour de France green jersey three times, and has 12 stage victories in that race to his name, and an identical number of stage wins in the Giro d’Italia, plus five Paris-Brussels titles amid dozens of other wins, was told yesterday by chairman of selectors Shayne Bannan that his name wasn’t on the final roster of nine, due to be announced tomorrow.
"I'm absolutely gutted and really, really disappointed," McEwen told The Australian newspaper, speaking from the Netherlands, where he is currently competing in the Eneco Tour, with his comments reported by AFP.
While many maintain that a sprinter will take victory in Geelong, with Mark Cavendish one of the favourites despite Great Britain only qualifying to take three riders to the race, a couple of nasty climbs inside the closing circuit, lapped 11 times, mean that outcome of the race is difficult to predict.
Nevertheless, McEwen insists he was up to the task. "The selectors felt that the road course between Melbourne and Geelong (in Victoria) was just too tough for me, but I don't agree,” he explained. "I've ridden over it and believe I could have been managed it and been competitive.”
McEwen continued: "Like everyone else I'm just shocked that I've been axed. I truly believe I've done enough here at the Eneco (Tour) to have warranted a start.”
The cyclist, a former BMX rider who spent most of his career with the Belgian Lotto team in its various guises before moving to Katusha last season, added: "At least Bannan was man enough to have told me to my face of me not being in the team."
Bannan gave no reason for McEwen’s exclusion, saying: "Out of respect for Robbie and what he's accomplished for Australian cycling, I'll give my reasons only after the team is officially announced on Tuesday."
Despite being one of the older riders in the peloton, McEwen remains competitive in the sprint despite not benefiting from the same level of dedicated support from team mates that some of his rivals enjoy.
He finished fifth in the points classification in last month’s Tour de France, and currently has a six-point lead over Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen in the sprints competition at the Eneco Tour, which finishes tomorrow.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.