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Ryder Hesjedal will retire at the end of 2016, and...

Former Giro champ Hesjedal will retire from pro racing

After a season stymied by illness, Ryder Hesjedal announces he'll retire this year. But he's motivated for the Canadian WorldTour races.

Canada’s most prolific winner Ryder Hesjedal confirmed Monday he will retire at the end of 2016.

The 35-year-old, who became Canada’s first grand tour winner when he won of the 2012 Giro d’Italia, confirmed he would end his nearly two-decade career this season.

“Yeah, it definitely wasn’t an easy decision, but it seemed like the right time,” Hesjedal said in a Trek – Segafredo team release. “I am ready to move on to other challenges in life. It’s been two decades focusing on the competition of cycling in two different disciplines, and now I want to use that experience in other ways.”

Hesjedal became Canada’s most consistent pro since Steve Bauer, and was a stalwart in international competition since the 1990s as he debuted at the mountain bike world championships where he won silver medals in junior, U23, and elite categories at the 1998, 2001, and 2003 championships, respectively. After racing on fat tires, he switched to road in 2005 with Discovery Channel. His biggest wins came with the Slipstream organization, culminating with his Giro win in 2012.

In 2013, he admitted to doping earlier in his career, but Cycling Canada did not sanction him. “Looking back, of course I know it was wrong — it was stupid and wrong,” he told VeloNews in 2014.

Hesjedal signed a one-year deal with Trek – Segafredo to focus on the 2016 Giro, but he fell ill, prompting his early departure from the Italian grand tour. He was unable to start the Tour de France, and said he will race at the Tour of Alberta as well as the Montreal and Quebec WorldTour events.

Here is Hesjedal’s farewell comment:

“I am indebted to Luca [Guercilena] and Trek – Segafredo for believing in me and giving me another stab at the Giro, but things just didn’t work out with me getting sick. 2016 is not finished and I am highly motivated for the final races. When I leave it will be knowing that I gave everything until my last race.

“I am really grateful for my time in the sport and for all of the support I have received over the years from my teams, family, friends and especially the fans. I truly love cycling and to be able to race at the level I have for so many years has been everything I dreamed it would be since I was a kid and just riding for fun. I want to get back to that and do different things on the bike and in life in general.”