By Monika Prell
Portuguese rider José Azevedo (Benfica) has announced at a press conference that 2008 will be his last season, no matter what results he achieves during the year. The 34 year-old, who was born in Vila do Conde, has been a professional for 15 years.
"I decided to hold a press conference because [everyone] deserves my highest respect and so, I think that the most appropriate is to announce this communiqué to everybody at the same time, and not in an individual form," started Azevedo. "I called this conference to announce that this will be my last year as professional rider.
"At the end of 2008 I will close my cycling career," he repeated. "It's a personal decision, because I always wanted to be the one who decides the moment of the end of my career."
The former ONCE and US Postal rider is one of the stars of the Portuguese cycling. Azevedo finished fifth and sixth in the Tour de France, and was instrumental in Lance Armstrong's victories at the Tour de France.
"Independently of the obtained results, I announce my decision at the beginning of the season to avoid any possible speculation at the end of the season, and to confirm that my decision has been taken independently of the results I will obtain," he said.
Azevedo went on to outline his aims and dedication to the season ahead. "This year, the Volta a Portugal will be my big objective because this will be my last chance to win it, but I will always have the interests of the team as priority," he explained. "As this will be my last year as professional cyclist, I will try to enjoy at a maximum the joy of being a cyclist, always with professionalism, honesty and respect, values I always respected in my cycling career."
Azevedo finished the 2004 Giro d'Italia in fifth place and in 1996 was the Portuguese time trial champion.