Tour de France rider and Australian cycling superstar Robbie McEwen has been honoured with an induction into the Noosa Triathlon and Multi Sport Festival “Walk of Fame”.
Australian sporting legend Dawn Fraser presented Robbie with his award and fellow commentator Matt Keenan walked him through his illustrious career at the Noosa Triathlon Multi Sport Festival official launch on 3 November.
“It is a huge honour and when I was told about tonight, I looked through the list of inductees and I saw the names, Dawn Fraser, Garth Prowd the founding father of the event who had done so much for the Noosa triathlon. All the amazing athletes on there and the people who have been 30 year volunteers. They are what keeps an event going and makes it special,” Robbie said.
“The atmosphere up here every year and every single facet of event, whether it is the cheating at the Celebrity Golf Day, the cheering of the competitors in the Ocean Swim, the Bolt, the Criterium and the triathlon itself, everything together makes it such a special weekend. It is nice to be back and it is a fantastic honour to be included in the Noosa Walk of Fame. It is very humbling and I am very honoured to be among that list of people.”
The former Australian BMX Champion made the switch to road cycling in 1990 at the age of 18 and while he eventually carved himself a place in the history of cycling, his career was originally met with calls that he wasn’t ‘up to scratch’.
“There is a story I tell for junior athletes or anyone at any time during their career for when you are told, ‘You are not cutting it, so go off and enjoy your sport and have fun. You are not going to be elite, you are not going to make it’,” Robbie recalled.
“It has happened to so many people but you can take it on board as motivation and as a challenge. You must believe in yourself and keep pushing on and do what you love. You can’t take that away from someone who wants it so badly. You just have to find the right avenue, find the right people around you and you will absolutely make it.
“You may not win the world championship, you may not be the very best in the world but you can be a damn good athlete, if you want it enough. I always think back to how much I wanted it and the people that supported me and believed in me, when some others, who thought they were quite important, didn’t. That is a victory in itself.”
Robbie eventually proved his detractors wrong and after 64 attempts to win a stage at the Tour de France, he finally broke through on the race’s most famous finish line the Champs Elysee in 1999.
After that the flood gates opened up, with Robbie winning of 12 stages of the Tour de France, the prestigious Green jersey three times and 12 stages of the Giro d’Italia, and at the peak of his career, he was considered one of the world’s fastest sprinters.
Throughout his career the Noosa Criterium played a pivotal role and he was among the first group of pioneering riders to bring the fast paced and furious criterium style of racing to Noosa Parade.
“The Noosa Criterium was always one of my favourite events of the year. It wasn’t the Tour De France or the Giro d’Italia, but coming here to Noosa was special. I raced the first Noosa Criterium back in what I think was 1993. My memory is a bit sketchy on that detail but there were maybe 800 people watching the crit. From those days it grew and through the 2000s and today there were regularly 20,000 people watching on. It was electric and the crowd was frothing and even though it was off season, we all loved to race it and we all raced hard.”
The Noosa Criterium became a genuine must see on ‘Super Saturday’ and a must do for all Australian riders and some notable internationals. It was also Robbie’s last ever race, coming out of retirement in 2013, to get it done one more time.
“People thought the last time I won was rigged, but in reality everyone was so amped up and it was such a big crowd, everyone wanted to win. I had been retired for more than 18 months and I was mentoring the guys from the Orica team at the time. I offered to ride with them and they through they had Leigh Howard here, he is fast, he is our sprinter, we are right. I was told to do my own thing. So, I was riding for myself and I rode them all the way into the last 100 metres and then got over the top. It was quite satisfying.
“Funnily enough when we crossed the line there was no conversation, they were a bit lost for words and in disbelief. It wasn’t that I had been training and racing like a professional, but I had just kept things ticking over and motivation is very, very powerful tool. I think the moment I got turned down by the guys to ride with them, my fitness went up by about 25 percent.
“After the race Peter Sagan and I did a wheelie down the Noosa Parade. There is a photo of that happening and I thought it was a nice way to close things out. The Noosa Criterium was the last ever race that I won,” Robbie said proudly.