Spanish veteran José Luis Arrieta has admitted that his 16-year professional career is almost certainly at an end after he was forced to quit the Vuelta a España due to tendonitis in his right knee. The 39-year-old Ag2r rider was planning to hang up his wheels at the end of this season, but has been advised that his knee has to be rested for at least 10 days, which effectively means his season is over.
“I had already made clear that I was going to retire this year, but the way I was going to do so hadn’t been decided,” said Arrieta after he had undergone medical tests in Pamplona.
By a quirk of fate, Arrieta’s career has ended in exactly the same place as his former Banesto team-mate, Miguel Indurain. Five-time Tour champion Indurain quit cycling when he abandoned on the Lagos de Covadonga stage of the 1996 Vuelta. Arrieta’s knee trouble forced him to quit at the foot of the same climb on stage 14 of this year’s race.
Arrieta, who was in Banesto’s Tour de France team with Indurain when the great Spanish champion’s Tour-winning run came to an end in 1996, told Biciclismo that he was “sad to have to quit in such a way. You find yourself all alone, just as Indurain did then, and you think back over all the things that you have experienced in cycling.”
Arrieta’s Vuelta abandon was only the second time he has failed to finish a grand tour in 23 starts and was the latest setback during an ill-starred season during which he’s broken his elbow on two occasions.
He turned pro with Banesto in 1993 and stayed with the set-up until signing for Ag2r in 2006. An extremely dependable domestique, he has just two pro victories to his credit: a stage in the 2006 Vuelta a España and another in the 2002 Tour of Asturias.