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So much for not being on form. Robbie McEwen might be taking on a field bereft of heavyweight rivals, but the Aussie sprinter defied his claims of lacking race fitness by comfortably winning the Tour Down Under's Classic Criterium here on Tuesday night, writes Justin Davis.
Held over 25 laps of a two-kilometre inner city circuit, McEwen began and ended the race at the front of the peloton. The finish, however, was somewhat faster than the start.
"75km down the home straight, not too bad," beamed the 33-year-old Davitamon-Lotto ace, referring to his winning speed as he held of Italian pair Daniele Colli (Liquigas) and Simone Cadamuro (Milram). Dimitri dFauw came fourth for Chocolade Jacques ahead of Aussie pair Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) and Mark Renshaw (Crdit Agricole).
Renshaw's more well-known team-mate, Thor Hushovd, who beat McEwen and Stuart O'Grady to the Tour de France green jersey last July, finished out of the top 10 after he had planned to lead out Renshaw, but began his effort far too early.
McEwen has now won four of the criteriums which traditionally begins the Tour Down Under, although as of this year they now have no bearing on the race standings. It was no surprise he milked the applause of the huge crowd, which prompted a few wheelies from the one-time BMXer from Brisbane.
Spanish talent Luis Leon Sanchez is the defending champion and at just 22 years old appears to have a bright future ahead of him - starting with Wednesday's first stage proper over 148km. Sanchez's Liberty team were prominent throughout the criterium, and appear ready - and willing - to help the Spaniard defend his title.
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 50km in 1.01.06 (49.10kph)
2 Daniele Colli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
3 Simone Cadamuro (Ita) Milram
4 Dimitri de Fauw (Bel) Chocolade Jacques
5 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
6 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Crdit Agricole
7 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
8 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
9 Matthew Goss (Aus) South Australia.com-AIS
10 Alexandre Usov (Blr) Ag2r
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