Robbie McEwen (born June 24, 1972 in Brisbane) is an Australian road-racing champion in his final – 15th – season as a professional with Team RadioShack, having started his career with Rabobank in 1996. Nicknamed the Pocket Rocket, he has amassed an almost unsurpassed record of well over 200 victories throughout his long and distinguished carrier, due in large part to an interesting mix of fierce competitiveness, intelligent road-racing talent, and unmatched sprinting ability.
Early on Robbie started distinguishing himself racing in BMX competitions where he became the Australian junior champion. But at the age of 18 he switch to road racing and started to excel almost immediately. In 1992 he won 3 stages at the Peace Race, for the Australian National Team. He went on to compete for his country in 3 Olympic Games, and has been honored on numerous occasions as the Australian Cyclist of the Year.
After riding with Rabobank for 4 seasons (1996-1999), Robbing moved to Farm Frites for the 2000 season and stayed with the group that had several sponsor name changes throughout the years, Domo-Farm Frites, Lotto-Adecco, Lotto-Dommo, Davtamon-Lotto, Predictor-Lotto, and finally Silence-Lotto in 2008. For the 2009-10 campaigns, Robbie road for Team Katusha. And for 2011, in which Robbie announced it was his last year as a professional road-racer, he signed with the Australian team Pegasus. However, when the organization failed to obtain a UCI Continental license, he was free to sign with another team and Johann Bruyneel quickly grabbed him for The Shack.
A list of Robbie’s accomplishments on a bike is longer than the entire compilation of palmaires of several current professional teams. He’s worn the Maillot Jaune and the Maglia Rosa in both France and Italy’s Grand Tours. He has ridden in the Tour de France 11 times, won 12 stages, became the first Australian rider to win the Tour’s green sprinter’s jersey (2002) then went on to do it 2 more times (2004 & 2006) having some epic battles with fellow Aussies Baden Cooke and Stuart O’Grady as well as Erik Zabel, Thor Hushovd and virtually every major sprinter of the last decade-and-a-half. He has won 12 stages in the Giro d’Italia. He’s won the sprinter’s classification in the Tour Down Under more than once and taken 14 stages in that race as well. He wore the colors of his country’s National Road Race Champion for 2 seasons (2002 & 2005). Robbie won the Paris-Brussels classic 5 times! The list just goes on.
Contributing to Robbie’s immense success through the years have been his strong will and perseverance in the face of adversity, particularly injury. In the 2007 Tour, after crashing hard in the last 20 kilometers, Robbie jumped back on the bike, fought his way to the front, and won the sprint finish, later having to abandon subsequent stages do to injuries to his wrist and elbow. In an earlier edition, 2004, Robbie fractured 2 vertebrae early in the Tour, but not only continued to ride through the pain; he went on to win the Green Jersey! And, just 3 days later, he almost beat Lance Armstrong in a criterium in The Netherlands, coming in second place. In 2009, racing in the Tour of Belgium, Robbie had a horrific crash into a traffic barrier that few watching that day will ever forget. The initial read was that this could well be a career-ending break to his leg with possible knee damage. After discounting any significant knee damage, the doctors placed pins in his badly broken leg, and Robbie set about his rehab with the same determination he’d displayed throughout his racing career, coming back to the professional peloton as strong as ever and defying many of the experts in the process.
While it will be for just one brief year, Team RadioShack is very lucky to have one of the sports true greats wearing The Shack jersey for the 2011 season.
By George Hurst, staff writer
Photo taken by me in Antwerp at the start of the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen 6 April 2011, which he almost podiumed on, and has won in past years.