Australian legend McEwen hands over to young guns
Robbie McEwen completed the final professional race of his long and accomplished career in California on Sunday, as the newest generation of Australian cyclists showed another tantalising glimpse of their future potential.
The Giro is obviously the biggest race of May, but this edition of the Tour of California was arguably more important for the future of Aussie cycling, as it gave Orica-GreenEDGE a chance to expose some young riders to more stage racing at a high standard.
Orica-GreenEDGE has posted a great tribute video to McEwen on its YouTube channel, which provides some insight into the man, and shows the high regard in which he is held by his peers and the fans. (Watch below)
McEwen’s transition into a coaching and development role with Orica-GreenEDGE will ensure his own wealth of knowledge isn’t lost to the next generation.
Fortunately, McEwen leaves the Australian road sprinting stocks in much better health than he found them. We all know about Matt Goss and Mark Renshaw, but some other Australian sprinters rode very well in California: Garmin-Barracuda’s Heinrich Haussler (who managed a tidy run of second places behind sprinting phenomenon Peter Sagan), Michael Matthews (Rabobank), and Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE) were all impressive at times.
Meanwhile, two potential Australian stars of the future, Cameron Meyer and Luke Durbridge, were finishing in 11th and 18th on general classification. Their Orica-GreenEDGE team-mate, Pieter Weening, crept into the top ten courtesy of a strong ride on the pivotal seventh stage on Mount Baldy.
Considering both of the Australians were spending a lot of time on the track until very recently, their ability to (mostly) stick with the pace in the hills was a pleasant surprise.
The expectation on Meyer is high. He’s been around the pro scene since his 2009 debut with the then Garmin-Slipstream team, and at 24-years-old the time to start converting the ability he has shown on the velodrome into results at major road races is edging closer.
If that means more colourful encouragement is required from Neil Stephens in the team car, I only hope the team continues to film it.
I think Meyer deserves a place in Orica-GreenEDGE’s Tour de France team, if team balance allows it. He has ridden the Giro d’Italia three times previously, but with a new focus on the road and a bit of extra maturity, it would be interesting to see how he performed on the biggest stage if given some latitude to chase stage wins.
Durbridge, at just 21 and in his first year as an international pro, has plenty of time up his sleeve. The Tour is probably beyond him this year, but he could do some serious damage in time trials at some of the smaller races. His confidence seems high following some good results, and deservedly so.
All in all, the Tour of California was pretty successful for Orica-GreenEDGE. It’s a shame McEwen wasn’t able to have one last sprint for the line, but a man who has done it all doesn’t need sentiment to prop up his reputation.
Well done, Robbie, and enjoy your retirement.
Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. A former A-grade club athlete, and now a keen recreational cyclist and roller racer, he once rode very slowly up Mont Ventoux. Tim tweets about sport at @timehhh_sp.
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