Andy Schleck has announced his retirement from professional cycling at the age of 29, blaming a knee injury he picked up on a crash during Stage 3 of the Tour de France in July as the race headed into London.
The news had been expected ever since his Trek Factory Racing team announced earlier this week that the rider would be holding a press conference in his native Luxembourg this morning.
There, he told journalists that while his ligaments had healed, he had almost no cartilage left in his kneecap, and choking back tears confirmed that in racing terms at least, his cycling career was finished.
In a press release issued shortly beforehand Schleck, awarded the overall victory in the 2010 Tour de France after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title, said: “I’m obviously disappointed to end my career like this.
“I would have liked to keep on fighting but my knee just doesn’t allow it. Since my crash in the UK there has hardly been any progress.
“While the ligaments have healed, the damaged cartilage is another story.
“I have been working hard on rehabbing the knee but came to the hard realisation that at the risk of irreversibly injuring it, this is the best course of action.”
Schleck, who also won the 2009 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, highlights his storming solo win on the Galibier in the final week of the 2011 Tour de France as one of his career highlights.
That stage victory set him up to take the race leader’s yellow jersey from Thomas Voeckler the following day, but within 24 hours he lost it to Cadel Evans in the time trial on the penultimate stage.
He missed the 2012 Tour de France after fracturing his sacrum during the previous month’s Critérium du Dauphiné, and never recaptured his previous form, abandoning races or finishing well down the overall standings.
Trek vice-president Joe Vadeboncoeur said: “Andy was an instant and natural fit for the Trek family when we first met him with Leopard-Trek.
"It has always been more about family than anything else at Trek, and so it is with Andy. On top of that, Andy is one of the most talented cyclists of all time. Many of my best days as a cycling fan have been while watching Andy race.
“We have celebrated the great days and endured the difficult ones alongside him. I know great things are ahead for Andy. He will always have friends and a family at Trek.”
Schleck, whose older brother Fränk last month signed a two-year contract extension with the team, also emphasised the importance of family.
He said: “Cycling has been my life for many years and I will need time to figure out what I’d like to do.
“Luckily I can count on my family, friends, and Trek who have always supported me.
"I am very happy to have trained and raced alongside my brother and to have made some of the best friends that I have.
“I have always said that cycling is not the beginning and the end of my life. I have a wonderful girlfriend and a wonderful son. I’m excited to find out what lies ahead.”
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