As the 2002 season draws to a close it is always worth seeing who were the top men in terms of victories.
Most Victories 2002
1. Robbie McEwen (AUS, Lotto-Adecco) 19
2. Erik Zabel (ALL, Telekom) 16
3. Mario Cipollini (ITA, Acqua e Sapone) 14
-. Filippo Pozzato (ITA, Mapei-Quick Step) 14
5. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA, Fassa Bortolo) 13
6. Paolo Bettini (ITA, Mapei-Quick Step) 10
-. Aurélien Clerc (SUI, Mapei-Quick Step Espoirs) 10
8. Angel Edo (ESP, Milaneza-MSS) 9
-. Jacek Mickiewicz (POL, CCC-Polsat) 9
-. Olaf Pollack (ALL, Gerolsteiner) 9
McEwen 19 victories
Robbie McEwen 2002
The Australian sprinter started early this year his first victory being on January 4th in the Skilled Geelong Bay Classic. He went on to win the Australian National Road race went he and Nathan O'Neill (Ceramiche-Panaria) broke away from the field, Robbie got the coverted jersey which made him easy to identify in the peloton, though obviously not so easy to catch. Four stage victories in the Tour Down Under followed before a return to Europe and yet more success.
Estonian fast man Jaan Kirsipuu (whom McEwen considers his biggest rival when on form) was shown a clear pair of wheels in the traditional opener of the euro season the Étoile de Bessèges - a race which McEwen won overall.
Two stages in the Paris Nice and two in the Giro followed before Robbie took a small break upon becoming a father. However the birth of Ewan McEwen (seriously) did nothing to slow the Australian fast man down, two stage victories (including the Sprinters choice on the Champs-Elysées) saw him deprive Zabel of the Green jersey. A continuing feud with Armstrong throughout the tour distracted the press from what was a very strong performance throughout. “le Kangourou” became the first Australian to win a major jersey in the Tour.
The post tour criteriums saw McEwen in continuing good form - he won the Aalst criterium just ahead of US Postal's Tom Boonen and the Profronde Heerlen from Michael Boogerd. The expected re-match between Zabel and McEwen in the Hew Cycylist Classic unfortunately never materialised since both riders managed to crash during the race, however McEwen continued his great run of form with a victory in the Tour du Zélande-Centrale and then won the Classic Paris Bruxelles (Cat 1.1) in September.
McEwen 19 victories
Tom Boonen was again the big rival in the Circuit Franco-Belge, but “le Kangourou” with magnificent support from his team managed to win stages two and three, hold off the challenge from the US Postal and take the over all victory.
McEwen's 19 victories of the season could have easily been even more, he had 9 second places in the season as well. The most famous second place being at Zolder where once again he found himself involved in a public dispute with another famous rider, this time Erik Zabel.
"We didn't quite have a boxing match, but that's the way it is sometimes when you are preparing to sprint. It's tough, I ended up spending a lot of time fighting for position with Zabel instead of on Cipo's wheel. That cost me a lot today; I'm not going to say that it cost me the win, but there could have been more," said McEwen after the race.
Not that any controversy will bother Robbie McEwen's huge number of fans. Fluent in Dutch, which he speaks in a perfect accent, his wit and demeanour have adhered him to a whole cross section of European fans.
A typical encounter of his sense of humour was heard on euro-sport during this years Tour -
David Duffield “What about the Australian riders, Robbie, aren’t they going well?”
Robbie McEwen “Nah, not compared to you Brits. One rider one stage win - we can’t match your 100% success record.“
So a stunning season by McEwen and one celebrated by his three websites:
Robbie McEwen is in French and is up to date with a huge data base of information. Interesting to read that in spite of two stage victories. McEwen ended up 103rd overall in the Paris Nice. Tout sur le plus grand sprinter de la planete seems a very apt slogan for this site.
In Dutch only this dynamic site OFFICIELE Site van Robbie McEwen is lively and full of fun. Some nice photos including a good picture of “Doctor McEwen.“
In Dutch and English Robbie McEwen - Our Hero is a warm tribute site by a devoted fan - well worth a visit.
What is clear is that McEwen has gained a fan base which transcends borders and Nationalities - which is no mean achievement and is probably as good as definition of "Sport" as you could get.
Photos courtesy of BBC, Aragon, Telekom