Caleb Ewan has pulled out of cycling’s Giro d’Italia, citing knee pain – less than 24 hours after he had sprinted in dazzling fashion to his second stage victory in three days.
The Australian “Pocket Rocket” had set off on Saturday wearing a grand tour points leader’s jersey for the first time, but his fun ended after about an hour of riding.
The cyclist from Sydney decided to abandon the demanding 170-kilometre eighth stage from Foggia to Guardia Sanframondi, with his Lotto Soudal team reporting in a tweet that Ewan was experiencing knee pain.
Ewan’s move was not a huge surprise as he had never planned to complete the three-week race, with his sights set on also winning sprinters’ stages at the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana.
— Lotto Soudal (@Lotto_Soudal) May 15, 2021
But it still felt a little unexpected at such an early stage after just a week’s racing on the Italian roads, where the 26-year-old had shown himself to be in such supreme form, with lightning finishes on the fifth and seventh stages.
Ewan, who will return to his Monaco base to train, was obviously not prepared to take any chances with his fitness and determined to be in prime form to start the Tour de France in Brest on June 26.
After powering home in Termoli on Friday, Ewan admitted that his legs were really burning and reiterated to reporters that there was no way he would complete the Giro.
“I need to do what’s best in preparation for the Tour,” he said.
“Unfortunately, sprinters’ legs don’t recover in the same way that any other riders do, and if I finished the Giro now I would be dying for the next few months.
“This year so far has been very tough with the weather and a lot of guys’ legs are hurting a lot.
“I have to make sure I don’t go so deep, because if you do it’s hard to start again in the next Tour.”
An absolute grind to the line today! Well worth it though for my second stage win of this years @giroditalia 😅 What a performance by my team also! So proud of them! @Lotto_Soudal pic.twitter.com/5CRfyYbWBH
— Caleb Ewan (@CalebEwan) May 15, 2021
French cyclist Victor Lafay went on to take the stage – the first victory win of his professional career – while Hungary’s Attila Valter retained the pink jersey.
The Cofidis rider Lafay attacked on the steep climb to the finish and soloed to victory, 36 seconds clear of Francesco Gavazzi, who pipped Nikias Arndt for second.
“I cannot believe it, I have just won a stage at the Giro!” exclaimed Lafay, who got his reward for being part of a nine-man breakaway about a third of the way through the stage.
Valter finished safely in the peloton to remain 11 seconds ahead of Remco Evenepoel overall, and 16 seconds clear of Egan Bernal.
Sunday’s ninth stage features another summit finish as well as three other categorized climbs, on the 158-kilometre (98-mile) route from Castel di Sangro to the ski resort of Campo Felice.