Queensland’s Robbie McEwen (32) on Sunday reclaimed the Australian Road Race crown proving unstoppable throughout the 182km event raced at the foot of the Adelaide Hills in the town of Echunga.
McEwen, whose success in 2004 included victory in the green jersey points competition of the Tour de France, is off to a flying start in 2005 with last week’s overall win in the Bay Series in Victoria backed up with his victory on Sunday in South Australia.
McEwen was the 2002 Australian champion and went into the event keen to reclaim the title and the right to wear the distinctive green and gold jersey of Australian Champion throughout the European season where he races with the Davitamon-Lotto professional team.
"Another jersey - it’s fantastic!" said McEwen. "I just reckon it’s the best looking jersey in the bunch maybe bar the World Champion’s jersey and I have really good memories from when I was champion in 2002."
"I just loved riding around in that jersey," he said. "Oh well, a new paint job for the bike, a new jersey, paintjob on the helmet - everything Aussie colours, I love it."
McEwen sprinted home on the downhill straight to the finish line in a time of 4hr10min13sec ahead of silver medallist Robert McLachlan (33) with Canberra’s Paul Crake (28) third.
A large combined Elite and U23 field of 140 riders lined up for 14 laps of the tough 13 km circuit in perfect racing conditions which saw the men ride hard from the gun. Constant attacks and counter attacks marked the race with riders averaging more than 45km/h.
McEwen admitted he was a little too keen early on but settled as the race progressed.
"In the beginning I made a bit of a mistake attacking myself and I missed a group and I just had to gamble that it would come back and it did," said McEwen. "Then I rode across to that group and I just got better as the race went on.
"When you win, however you win, it’s been perfectly executed (plan)."
On the third lap, a large group of around 30 riders split off the front including Stuart O’Grady and Matt White (Cofidis), Henk Vogels, Cadel Evans and Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto), Graeme Brown (Panaria) and Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros). Wednesday’s time trial champion Nathan O’Neill (Navigators) and world time trial champion Michael Rogers (Quick.Step) missed the move.
The action was all played out in this front group which over the course of the remaining laps was whittled down to leave four contenders for the final sprint, McEwen, McLachlan, Crake and Cadel Evans.
A chasing group of four including O’Grady and White tried to get back to the front with White launching a last ditch solo chase in the final lap but he couldn’t bridge the gap and crossed alone in fifth place.
Sydney’s Chris Sutton came home the clear winner in the under 23 division completing the race in 4hr16min30sec. Victorian William Walker came home second and third 2min39sec behind Sutton.