We got our sprint war as advertised in the Tour Down Under. It’s just not the stars we’d had in mind. No Cavendish, Farrar or Chicchi, more like McEwen, Graeme Brown and Ben Swift. It’s a crazy upside down world and soon even Matteo Bono of Lampre will take his shot at a sprint.
It was Sky rider Swift who benefitted most from the chaos and carnage 200 meters from the line that took out Cavendish and yesterday’s winner Matt Goss of HTC-Highroad. Train off the tracks, conductor dead.
“I can’t believe it. There was just a pile up… it was carnage in the end,” said Swift. “The first crash we lost our sprinter, two riders fell in front of him. I jumped with 200m to go. Robbie [McEwen] tried to get the jump on me, I felt brilliant.” Is there a better way to sum up what winning feels like?
Robbie McEwen has always been a masterful bike handler and once again he was able to avoid hitting the deck. The Australian rider did his best to provide some good news for Lance Armstrong and his Radio Shack team in the wake of the damning Sports Illustrated article on the Landis doping allegations. McEwen takes the overall lead and a TDU win would be a nice way to head into retirement.
Cavendish required several stitches after his crash. He’s bruised and battered and was again beaten by arch rival Tyler Farrar. The Manxman rolled in at 130th place, unable to match the blistering kick of Farrar who blew by him for 129th. This looks like a battle for back-of-the-peloton supremacy. Somewhere Alessandro Petacchi is laughing.
Even third place Graeme Brown has to navigate his way through the crashes to claim that final podium spot. “The one [crash] at the top of the hill, just where we turn left my team mate actually crashed right in front of me, and I was caught up in the mix and I was off the road,” said Brown. “I had to come back through the bunch again and then the one [crash] at the finish I didn’t even know about. Ask Cavendish or Goss to show you their road rash.
Today’s race from Tailem Bend to Mannum — or was that Man Up! — went to the rider who was the swiftest. Not Cavendish or Farrar or Griepel but Ben Swift. Tomorrow, another surprise.