/ Cycling

McEwen takes opening Tour de France stage

Updated: Sunday, 08 Jul 2007 17:17

Robbie McEwen has won the opening stage of the Tour de France
Robbie McEwen has won the opening stage of the Tour de France

Australian Robbie McEwen produced one of his greatest sprint performances when he recovered from a crash 21 km from the finish to blast through the field and claim the first stage of the Tour de France.

McEwen looked down and out when he was catapulted over his handlebars just as he was thinking about working for position for the sprint finish into Canterbury on the 203km ride from central London.

Landing heavily, he feared a broken wrist that would not only end his chances of a stage win but also his whole Tour.

However, gripping the bars gingerly, he was gradually guided through the tightly packed peloton by his Predictor-Lotto team mates.

With the finish line in sight, the 35-year-old powerhouse produced the sort of devastating burst that has earned him three green jerseys and 11 previous stage wins.

‘That was one of my best ever,’ said McEwen, who is racing in his 10th Tour.

‘I can't believe I've won, the moment I crashed I thought that's that, and even my tour could have been over.

‘I stopped in the bunch, I was almost at a dead standstill, someone hit me from behind flipped me over the handlebars.

‘The first thing I thought was that I'd broken my wrist or something, it was so sore, but my team mates waited and brought me back with about seven km to go.’

Even with his team working for him, there seemed no way through for McEwen on the tight streets of Canterbury but, as so often before, he found something that nobody else could match to overhaul Norway's Thor Hushovd and long-time Belgian rival Tom Boonen.

‘I just seemed to find my way through, I had absolutely nothing to lose and gave it everything from 200,’ he said.

McEwen's first stage win was on the Champs Elysees in 1999.

There have been some memorable efforts since but he said of Sunday's performance: ‘It's hard to put one above another but this one is one is definitely one of the most special.’

Thanking his team mates he added: ‘It's just incredible the work they did to bring me back and this is the perfect way to repay my boys. What a day.’