By Shane Stokes in La Covatilla
Robbie McEwen came to the race with the goal of taking a victory and thus landing stages in all three grand tours this year, but he will instead be heading home early after being eliminated on the race's first mountain stage to the Estación de Esquí La Covatilla. He crossed the line alone in last place, 39 minutes and 26 seconds down on stage winner Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and was one of three to finish outside the time limit. Also leaving the race are Française des Jeux riders Freddy Bichot and Christophe Detilloux.
McEwen took three stage wins in the Giro, the same again in the Tour and also carried off the maillot vert as best sprinter. However that sort of speed seemed to have been a little lacking in this race, a long season perhaps starting to take its toll. He also probably lost out on his chances due to starting his gallop a little early on stages two and three, where he finished fourth and fifth. He was ninth on Tuesday.
McEwen's Davitamon Lotto team-mate Chris Horner told Cyclingnews several days ago that the Australian was likely to leave the race during the second week. McEwen also confirmed that he would go early, although today's withdrawal was not foreseen.
He said on Sunday that he was going to make a decision soon about his possible participation in the world championships, but stressed at the time that it would depend on being fresh enough to have decent form for the race. Whether or not he will now take the decision to call an end to his season remains to be seen. Either way he can look back on a very successful year.