Robbie McEwen used his fast sprint finish to silence his critics on Tuesday and take his second consecutive stage win at the Tour of Switzerland.
The 35 year-old Aussie has been under pressure after an injury affected first part of the season, with some of the Belgian media speculating that he may not even get place in the Silence-Lotto Tour de France team because of the needs of team mate and Tour contender Cadel Evans.
McEwen was also in trouble in Switzerland after arguing with race officials after winning Monday?s third stage to Gossau. He delayed the podium presentation because he was speaking on the telephone and then allegedly abused officials and attacked Switzerland with a series of F words. He was almost thrown off the race but organisers decided to turn a blind eye and let him continue.
McEwen made up for his bad-boy behaviour, silenced his critics and secured his place in the Tour de France with another perfect sprint on Tuesday. Yet again his team mates looked after him all day, chased down the early break and then perfectly lead out the sprint.
McEwen hit the front with two hundred metres to go and had enough speed to hold off Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Gerald Ciolek (High Road). It was an exact repeat of his win on Monday and proved that McEwen still has it even at 35 and after 13 years as a successful professional.
Talented young Spanish rider Igor Anton (Euskaltel) kept the race lead, six seconds ahead of Kim Kirchen (High Road).
?I usually have to look after myself in the sprints but here I had some team mates to help me and it made a difference,? McEwen said.
?We planned our tactics before the stage and they worked perfectly. Some of my team mates rode hard to bring back the breaks and then Leif Hoste and Greg Van Avermaet guided me to the finish.?
?I haven?t had a great season because I had a bad crash in February and others since then but I?m feeling good now, Cadel Evans will be going for the winner?s yellow jersey at the Tour de France and so I don?t think we can go for the green points jersey as well but I think I can be competitive in the sprints.?
All smiles after his second win, McEwen insisted he loves racing and winning in Switzerland even if he was probably not convincing enough to pass a lie detector test.
?A newspaper said I should be go home and claimed I hate Switzerland but that?s not true. I love racing in Switzerland and I love Switzerland, I?ve always done well here,? he said.
Silence-Lotto have to yet to finalise their full team for the Tour de France but McEwen has now earned a place by right. As he pointed out to Cycling Weekly during the Giro d?Italia, his presence in the team and his results in the sprint can help take the pressure and attention off Cadel Evans during the first part of the race.
Evans might prefer an extra team mate to help in him in the mountains but probably quietly knows it is better to have Robbie on his side if he is going to have to fight for the yellow jersey.