McEwen calls for Aussie-only nationals
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

McEwen calls for Aussie-only nationals

by Conal Andrews at 9:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, National Championships
 

Double Australian national champion Robbie McEwen has questioned the decade-long practice of allowing foreign riders take part in the championships, saying that it has the potential to greatly interfere with the fight for the title.

"I just don't get it, it's as if they're saying `hey, all you Australian riders, you're too sh*t to have your own race. We're going to throw in some foreigners to spice it up'," McEwen told the Adelaide Now/The Advertiser newspaper.

"I really don't agree with it and I find it absolutely ridiculous. You're supposed to be racing other Australians for the right to wear the national champion's jersey, which is sacred, and (they) go and stack the race with foreigners.

"They can't win an Australian title, but they can certainly change the face of the race."

McEwen won the championships in 2002 and again three years later. The nationals became an open event in 1999 and have been disputed by a large number of foreign riders. Jeremy Hunt (Great Britain) was the only overseas competitor to triumph, outsprinting the first Australian Jamie Drew in 2000.

However even if the feat hasn’t been repeated since, McEwen’s argument is that the foreign riders can still affect the outcome.

Race director John Craven said he understood McEwen’s comments, but said that some exceptions need to be considered.

"If somebody like Alberto Contador was to put his hand up to ride the Australian Open road championship, it would be a brave and foolish promoter to reject his entry,” he stated.

It looked like this year’s champs would see the Columbia HTC team field two Germans alongside four Australian riders. However Vuelta España points winner Andre Greipel and former world champion Bert Grabsch will now miss the early-January event due to a contractual agreement with the Tour Down Under.

The director of that race, Mike Turtur, explained his position.

"I just asked all teams to obey the contract that they've signed. The contract states two races - the Cancer Council Down Under Classic and the Santos Tour Down Under.

"We're paying for all the travel, all the participation fees, all the other costs associated with them coming to Australia. I'm happy to discuss possibilities with other promoters if they want to share some costs - 50 per cent, and I'm happy for any other promoter in Australia to talk with us."

The national championships will take place between January 6-10, while the Tour Down Under is running from January 17-24.

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