Queensland’s Robbie McEwen (32, Davitamon-Lotto) sprinted to his ninth Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under stage win in the race’s seven year history continuing his stunning early season form.
He already held the record for the most stage wins by a rider for the event and his current form puts him in contention for even more victories this week.
McEwen, who last Saturday claimed the Australian road race title, was simply too strong for the class international field surging down the homestraight to success in the 50km (25 laps of 2km circuit) course in Adelaide’s East End before an enthusiastic crowd of 65 000.
McEwen rode home in 1:00:45 ahead of Bundaberg’s Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) with hometown hero Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) in third.
"It’s great," said McEwen. "I had the first one under my belt on Saturday in the National Championships and I came out here tonight hoping to feel okay.
"To be honest it may sound silly but I didn’t feel really good at all," he said. "I’m still tired from Saturday and struggling a bit but when I saw my team mates working so hard out the front I knew I had to do something to try and repay them.
McEwen’s Davitamon-Lotto team covered all the moves and controlled the race to set their team leader up for the perfect sprint.
"I got myself in the right position in the end and I think those couple of races I’ve already done now put me that half step ahead of the Euros and I was able to get up with the win."
"It was nice to win the first stage, it’s only a shame I have to take off the national champion’s jersey so soon but at least it’s for the leader’s jersey in the Tour Down Under ," McEwen laughed. "But there’s a long, long way to go in the race."
McEwen was second overall in 2004 behind Patrick Jonker but refuses to predict an overall victory for himself in 2005.
"I’d like to win overall but I realise it’s not as simple as just saying I’d like to win the overall," said McEwen. "I will try but if it doesn’t work the at least I’ve had a good start (to the year)."
McEwen will take a two second lead into tomorrow’s 150km stage from Salisbury in Adelaide’s northern suburbs to Tanunda in the heart of the Barossa Valley wine growing region.
South Australian, Gene Bates, (UniSA) who won both intermediate sprints to claim 12 points on the stage wears the SA Lotteries Sprint leader’s jersey, Queensland’s David Betts (United Water), 23, was named the Century 21 Most Aggressive Rider.
David McPartland (United Water), who was third in the Laubman and Pank King of the Mountain competition in 2004 will wear that jersey on Wednesday when the race encounters it’s first climb and Liberty Seguros is leading the Sensational Adelaide Winning Team competition. Liberty Seguros also has the lead in the Share the Road Best Young Rider Classification through Queensland’s Aaron Kemps.