As we celebrate this week’s final week of the Tour de France, we look back on a memorable—and truly iconic—moment in Litespeed’s history: our victory on the famed Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

In 2002, the Tour de France saw the Lotto-Adecco team enter the race with one big name at the forefront: Robbie McEwen. The Australian national road race champion that year, McEwen was known not only for his sprinting prowess, but also his brash swagger. He was ready to take on the longtime sprint legend, Germany’s Erik Zabel for three weeks, contesting flat stage opportunities in an effort to establish himself as the fastest sprinter, and the top prize for the most consistent sprint finisher over the three-week race: the malliot vert, or the green jersey.

It was also the first year that saw Litespeed titanium at the Tour de France—at least officially. It was a rumor at the time that several top riders had been riding bikes badged and painted with sponsor, that may or may not have come out of Litespeed’s Tennessee factory. But in supporting the Lotto-Adecco team, Litespeed was making it official; that it was going to be a fantastic bike, tough enough not just for Andrej Tchmil and Peter van Petegem, two top riders in the brutal spring classics one-day affairs, but also for the biggest stage race in the world: the Tour de France.

The 2002 kicked off with a bang for McEwen. On the July 9th flat stage from Metz to Reims, he out-kicked Zabel and fellow Aussie Baden Cooke for the Stage 3 victory—the first ever win for a Litespeed at Le Tour as he piloted his Litespeed Vortex.

In the following weeks, McEwen chased Zabel across the Pyrenees, across the Massif Central and over the Alps, the two chasing sprint finishes and intermediate sprint points in a tight battle. Zabel had the jersey from Stages 1 through 13, and McEwen snatched it back on Stage 14.

“We were shadowing each other,” McEwen told Cycling Weekly magazine. “There was a lot of stress. It probably cost me a stage or two because I became cagey and didn’t want to make mistakes and lose a bunch of points.”

In the last week, the McEwen/Zabel duo were locked in a points battle, with McEwen edging ahead—239 points to Zabel’s 238—on stage 18. Nip and tuck through the race, it would all come down to the final stage: the ride into Paris, along the famed Champs Elysées.

As the riders barreled toward the finish, it was McEwen—aboard his Vortex—popping forward as the surging wave of riders crossed the finish line for the final time.. and the win sewed up his maillot vert dreams. McEwen’s victory not only was his second stage win in the finale and denied Zabel a seventh green jersey, it was also the first time an Australian had taken one of the Tour’s major prizes.

“It’s the biggest milestone of my career,” he said. “Ask any sprinter; wearing green in Paris is what they most want to do.”

2002 was one of the finest years in McEwen’s career. Aboard his Litespeed, he netted 19 wins in four Grand Tours, claimed that Tour de France green jersey (his one and only) and earned the silver medal at the UCI World Championships road race.

“It’s my best year,” he said. “I had so many firsts; my first win at the Giro, first time winning ahead of Cipo (Mario Cipollini), my first green jersey, my first stage at the Tour as a sprinter—but also the first time I was competitive in so many races. It was a breakout season that gave me so much confidence.”

While 2002 would be the only year Litespeed was officially in the Tour de France, McEwen’s time on a Litespeed doubtlessly helped springboard McEwen’s career, which flourished another five years after that amazing 2002 season.

Today, McEwen remains in cycling as a color commentator in Australia. Still one of Australia’s finest sprinters, he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2019, and the Queensland Hall of Fame in 2020.

Litespeed Bicycles Tour de France Robbie McEwen