In the end, the battle with cancer wasn’t the predominant factor behind Ivan Basso’s decision to call time on his career. Naturally, his diagnosis in July and subsequent full recovery will have had some impact and helped put things in perspective, but the Italian had already sensed he was waning as an athlete and is reluctant to carry on if he can’t perform at a high level.
Basso, now 37 years of age, announced his retirement at the official presentation of the 2016 edition of the Giro d'Italia - a race he has won twice - and went as far as suggesting he had become a "liability".
"I think it’s the right moment. The right place too – all of world cycling is here. For me it’s a special day, of course, but it’s a natural day, because the last period [has been] really difficult for me," he told Cyclingnews at the Giro presentation in Milan.
"I ride, I try to do what I have to do but sometimes I’m not comfortable. I am not where I have to be and that’s not good enough. I don’t want to ride just to ride my bike. I think it’s important to finish in the right moment.
"I want to finish my career with energy because I need the energy for my family and for my work in cycling. I stop but I start straight away, so it’s a new adventure for me," he added, referring to his immediate switch to an administrative role in the Tinkoff-Saxo set-up.
Basso was diagnosed with cancer after a crash at the Tour de France in July, which resulted in the discovery of a lump on his left testicle. He left the race after scans showed it to be cancerous but the subsequent operation and recovery process seem to have gone smoothly, with the Italian receiving the all-clear two weeks ago.
In a statement from the Tinkoff-Saxo team, Basso said that he was already unhappy with his performances before he suffered that crash and reasoned that carrying on next year without being able to perform near his best would be tantamount to 'betrayal' of his fans and those around him.
"When I joined Tinkoff-Saxo, one of the world's best teams, my goal was to add value to the top squad they already had, otherwise it wouldn't have made any sense. Even if my role is to be a super domestique, I have to perform at the highest level and when we take part in the most important race of the year, I have to be an asset to the team not a liability", he said.
"I have no reason to betray my fans and all the people that believed in me all these years. I could have continued racing but I wouldn't be competitive. I could take part in a race but then struggle to finish. There is no point in letting my fans down and when adrenaline is replaced by fear then it's time to change".