Circuit Franco-Belge: McEwen Wins, Blythe 2nd, Downing 8th

South Yorkshire duo Adam Blythe and Russell Downing were 2nd and 8th on the opening stage of the Circuit Franco-Belge which was won by Aussie Robbie McEwen.Team RadioShack’s Robbie McEwen seems to like the races in the French speaking part of Belgium. After winning a stage in this year’s Tour de Wallonie, he won today’s opening stage of the Circuit Franco-Belge (or Tour de Wallonie Picarde), a four-day stage race around the Belgian-French border. In a mass sprint he was faster than last year’s overall winner Adam Blythe (Omega Pharma – Lotto) and Rüdiger Selig (Leopard Trek).

“My teammates brought me in a perfect position,”  explained Robbie McEwen (39). “Sky was pulling for Russell Downing. Behind their trio of Sutton, Henderson and Downing, Adam Blyth was there with his teammate Vandousselaere.  I was in the wheel of Blyteh who accelerated. I could easily go around him and his teammate. My sprint was very regular, no explosiveness, but I continuously accelerated.  I had to as the last 150 meters were really uphill. I could keep up my pace and won quite easily. This makes me happy. My third victory of the seaon.”

“It is always a pleasure to work with Robbie McEwen,” said Team Director Dirk Demol. “Despite his age that lends to less explosiveness, he never gives up and is always fighting for his position. He is an example for all other riders. The team also believed in him and worked a lot for him.”

“With Sam Bewley, Michal Kwiatkowski and Gregory Rast I still had three teammates with me,” continued McEwen. “Rast and Kwiatkowski brought me through the last kilometer and then Kwiatkowski guided me to the 6th position to start the sprint. An ideal situation for me.”

The first stage from Mouscron to Péruwelz started very fast. The average speed the first hour of the race was more than 50 k/h. After that, three riders (Ronan Van Zandbeek (Skil-Shimano), David Lelay (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Jonathan Dewitte (Wallonie Bruxelles-Crédit Agricole)) managed to stay away from the peloton but were finally caught in the local laps.

Robbie McEwen starts tomorrow in the yellow leader’s jersey in stage 2 to Poperinge. “The overall victory is not the main objective here as we came for stage wins, but you never know. Most important is that I get ready for Paris-Tours, my last objective of the season.”

Result Stage 1: Mouscron-Péruwelz, 178.2 km
1 Robbie McEwen (Team RadioShack) 4:03:18;
2 Adam Blyth;
3 Rüdiger Selig;
4 Nacer Bouhanni;
5 Michael Van Staeyen;
6 Sep Vanmarcke;
7 Tom Veelers;
8 Russell Downing;
9 Koen de Kort;
10 Nikolas Maes

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