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Two-time Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Basso retired from professional racing on Monday, saying his light as a top-level cyclist is “dimming.”
The 37-year-old Basso, who underwent successful surgery in July after being diagnosed with testicular cancer during the Tour de France, made the announcement Monday during the Giro d’Italia 2016 route unveiling at the Milan World Expo.
“Every athlete knows that his light will not shine bright throughout his career,” said Basso, who won the Giro in 2006 and 2010. “Inevitably, at some stage it will start dimming and it’s the sign of a wise athlete to know when the moment has come to turn it off.”
Basso first turned professional in 1999 with Riso Scotti, and, after stints with Fassa Bortolo and Team CSC, later rode with Lance Armstrong on the Discovery Channel squad in 2007. He then rode for the Liquigas/Cannondale franchise from 2008-2014 before signing with Tinkoff-Saxo for 2015.
According to a Tinkoff press release, Basso will remain with the team in a “newly-created position in the team that will combine managerial and technical aspects.”
“I don’t regret putting an end to my racing career,” Basso said. “Cycling is a passion that runs in my family and I feel extremely lucky I have a team that believes in me and gives me this opportunity to start this new endeavor without practically stopping.
“I look forward to working closely with the team management, its sport directors and all the riders. I’d like to also thank the owner of the team, Oleg Tinkov, who makes all this possible driven by his profound passion for the sport of cycling.”
Basso teetered on pulling the plug on his career over the last year, but a new weight was added to that decision after his cancer treatment.
After what many considered a drawn-out Giro 2016 presentation at Milan’s EXPO 2015 Monday, organizer RCS Sport pulled on stage one of Italy’s favorites. It awarded him a plaque from his last Giro win, but failed to underline the “Smiling Assassin” was bowing out. Basso, too, did not put it into clear words.
“It was wrongly reported that I’d be going to the Japan criterium that ASO is putting on,” Basso said. “This is it, it’s over.”
Basso last raced the Tour de France. After noticing something was wrong following a stage 5 crash and a doctor’s check, he pulled out on the first rest day in Pau.
Basso came back from a doping ban for transfusing his blood with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes to win his second title at the Giro, but could not find the needed energy to come back from cancer treatment.
“It’s a special day for me, but it came naturally for me because it’s been really difficult in the last period,” Basso added.
“I rode, trying to do what I needed to do, but many times, I wasn’t comfortable or where I needed to be – that is not good enough. I don’t want to ride just to ride my bike.”
Basso walked off stage with a Tinkoff-Saxo team helper in a grey and black top. Changing out that neon yellow racing kit, he too will wear such colors in 2016 helping his former teammates.
“It’s important to finish my career in the right moment. I want to finish my career with energy, because I need my energy for my family and for my work in cycling because I’m stopping, but I’m starting straight away,” he said.
“In this period, we will work to find a good [role in Tinkoff], just to start and know what I’m good at doing to help cycling and my team.”