Robbie McEwen can barely bring himself to say it. But the Queenslander knows tonight’s Milan-San Remo classic might be his last chance to win one of the “monuments” in cycling.
The 38-year-old Queenslander has achieved so much since turning professional in 1996. Among his victories are 12 stages on the Tour de France and three green points jerseys (one year, he wore it with a broken back), 12 stages of the Giro d’Italia, 14 stages on the Tour Down Under and five wins in the Paris-Brussels classic.
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He has also been Australian Cyclist of the Year three times.
All that is missing from his sprinting CV – apart from the world title, which he came so close to winning in 2002 when he took home the silver medal – is a victory in one of the sport’s five most prestigious one-day classics – the “monuments”.
They are the oldest races, passing through and over some of the most historically significant terrain and landmarks in Europe. They represent the romance and traditions of the sport.
The 298-kilometre Milan-San Remo – the first of the monuments on this year’s racing calendar – is perhaps the best opportunity for McEwen (RadioShack) to win one such classic, even though he is now seemingly back-pedalling on his initial plan of retiring after next year’s Tour Down Under in South Australia.
McEwen, 39 in June, believes he is in the best form of career at this time of the year, and that even if he does race into his 40s, there are no guarantees he will repeat this form, especially with youngsters like Mark Cavendish performing well on the tours.
And so McEwen, whose best result in this race is a fourth place in 2007, is ready to make best of the opportunity.