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Caleb Ewan out of Milan-San Remo with stomach bug

Benelux Tour 2021 17th Edition 6th stage Ottignies LouvainlaNeuveHouffalize 12076 km 04092021 Caleb Ewan AUS Lotto Soudal photo Tim van WichelenCVBettiniPhoto2021
Caleb Ewan was one of the favourites for Milan-San Remo (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), one of the top favourites for Milan-San Remo, has been ruled out of the race due to illness.

The Australian is the latest in a long and growing line of big-name withdrawals, following defending champion Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and 2019 champion Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl).

Shortly before Ewan's absence was confirmed, Bora-Hansgrohe indicated that Sam Bennett would also have to miss the race due to illness.

Ewan, who finished second at Milan-San Remo in 2018 and 2021, had enjoyed a fine start to the season and had made La Classicissima a major objective of his year. However, he came down with a stomach bug in the days leading up to the race.

Lotto Soudal staff had held off on ruling him out until the last minute, but by Friday lunchtime it was clear he would not be fit and they pulled the plug.

"I am very disappointed that I am not able to start off my main goal of the spring season," Ewan said.

"I was in good form and ready for a hard race, but like many other riders at the moment, I faced a stomach flu at the worst time. Together with the team we had to decide that it is better to now focus on different goals."

While Tadej Pogačar and Wout van Aert dominated the pre-race headlines, Ewan was considered in the same top bracket of favourites for Saturday. A two-time runner-up, the Australian is a fearsome sprinter, but also showed he's not a pure bunch sprinter this time last year with a remarkable following of accelerations on the Poggio.

Last year, as in 2018, he was foiled only by opportunistic solo attackers, and was only waiting for the stars to align for him to win the race that's at the top of his bucket list.  Ewan had already won three times this season, indicating his form, but he'll now have to wait another year for his next crack at La Primavera.

In Ewan's absence, Philippe Gilbert will take sole leadership of Lotto Soudal in what is his final Milan-San Remo appearance. Victory would complete the former world champion's set of all five Monuments, so motivation will be high in the final year of his career.

Ewan joins a long list of contenders who won't be lining up in Milan on Saturday morning. As well as Stuyven and Alaphilippe, Paris-Roubaix champion Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) has also been ruled out through illness.

On Friday morning, Bora-Hansgrohe announced that Sam Bennett would not be riding either. The Irishman has not started the season in good form, but can never be completely written off. Bora-Hansgrohe have yet to name their line-up for tomorrow's race.

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.