2010 Tour de France champion Andy Schleck announced his retirement from cycling at 29 years old Thursday.
“There’s been a lot of speculation, now I have to confirm the speculation,” said Schleck in a press conference in his home country of Luxembourg.
“I will not be a cyclist in 2015. It hurts. The decision was taken form after my crashes.”
Schleck won the Tour de France, after Spain’s Alberto Contador lost the title due to doping and the 2009 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and has several podium finishes. Recent crashes, however, put the brakes on his career.
He last raced in the Tour de France on July 8, when he crashed with about 30 kilometers to race on London’s streets.
“I had operations in Basel [Switzerland], I could ride, but my [right] knee kept swelling, over and over again, pain again and again. My doctor told me there wasn’t much they could do. I hoped it’d get better, but it didn’t,” said Schleck, who paused a few times to collect himself.
“Thoughts came to mind — ‘what am I going to do with my knee, my life and my cycling career?’ I wasn’t good at the time, I had to make a decision that cycling is finished for me. I will end my career at the end of this year.”
Schleck notched his last win atop the Tour de France’s highest finish, the 2011 Col du Galibier stage 18 at 2,642 meters.
“I look back with a smile, I’m very proud of what I achieved in my career,” Schleck said. “Like that Galibier stage. That was my idea, no one agreed with it in the team. They told me there was too much headwind, but I had the idea in my head. It was my idea.
“The same way I won Liège-Bastogne-Liège, everyone told me to wait and go later, but I felt it was the right moment.”
Schleck’s career began to unravel with a crash during the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné time trial. He fell due to strong winds and fractured his sacrum. He spent a year recovering and returned to place 20th in the 2013 Tour de France, but the 2014 London crash knocked him back down.
“When I crashed, I felt my leg was a broken. I could not stand. I made it back and finished the stage, but I could hardly walk up the stairs to the bus, I was scared,” Schleck said.
“My ligaments are fine, they healed properly, but I almost have no cartridge underneath. I had to consider my options.
“It’d be nice to plan my retirement Jens Voigt did, but I can’t do that. I can’t ride anymore because my knee will not support me on the bike.”
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said Schleck’s untimely departure from the sport left a bitter taste of underachievement after the great promise of his early results.
“He had the natural talent and after what he did at the Giro d’Italia (second in 2007 at age 22), we thought he’d go on to have a brilliant career,” Prudhomme said. “We really thought he was going to do something special, but the last three seasons have been littered with falls.”
Schleck signed his first contract at 19 years old and joined his brother Frank at team CSC as a stagiaire for the 2004 season. He continued with the team through 2010 and left with Frank and Fabian Cancellara to help form team Leopard Trek, which became RadioShack and is now Trek Factory Racing.
Schleck’s father Johny raced and helped Jan Janssen and Luis Ocaña win the Tour de France. Frank Schleck, 34, renewed his contract with Trek in September for two more years, though 2016.
Schleck made the decision in September that he would no longer continue as a professional cyclist and that he would end his 10-year run in the pro peloton.
“My goal is to stay in cycling, I love it too much to just give it up,” Schleck said. “I have ideas of what I’d like to do next year, but don’t ask yet. You will see me around, I won’t hide in my home, I want to still be around in this beautiful world.”
Information from AFP was used in this report.