Cycling boasts the second biggest
following of European professional sport behind football – the heroes
of the tours of France and Italy are household names on the continent
and the name on everyone’s lips today is the Gold Coast’s Robbie McEwen.

The
32-year-old Aussie followed up his second placing yesterday, with a win
in the third leg of the tour today and now leads the world’s second
biggest bike race by eight seconds. Two other Aussie stars, Baden Cooke
(5th) and Stuart O’Grady (7th) also finished close to the front. The
emergence of Australian roads riders as a world power shows no signs of
flagging as we continue to impact on this huge European sport. McEwen
not only leads the Giro but is also the reigning Tour de France sprint
points champion, and will defend his green jersey in July.

An
Australia has now won two of the first three sections of the Giro,
after the first day Prologue was won by Athens Olympic pursuit gold
medalist, 25-year-old Brett Lancaster, in what was a sensational result
to launch yet another Aussie star into the ranks of the international
road elite.

“Forget the dormouse, the true mascot of the 88th Giro is the kangaroo,” the Giro website’s
lead story reads today. “After the preliminary time trial win in Reggio
Calabria by Brett Lancaster, Australia celebrates once again after the
second stage, 182km from Catanzaro to Santa Maria del Cedro. Robert
McEwen, flying kangaroo from the Davitamon team, conquered the winning
sprint, beating Spaniard Galvez Lopez, German Forster and, above all,
Alessandro Petacchi, already disappointed with his third place finishes
yesterday and on Saturday”.

In the bunch finish to the line,
McEwen timed his sprint perfectly – waiting late before moving to the
head of the peloton in the final 500m and passing Estonia’s equally
aggressive Jaan Kirsipuu to write another chapter in his illustrious
career. These early Giro successes point to this year’s Tour de France
being the biggest and best yet for our cycling stars, as Lance
Armstrong prepares to attempt an historic seventh straight victory and
then retirement.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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