“For too long now I have been struggling with colitis,” he said in a statement issued by the team on Monday at midday. “I am getting better at managing it but at this point it is not improving fast enough for me to continue at this professional level in the sport of cycling.”
Looking forward, he said: “As for my future in cycling, my body will have to decide this. For my future off the bike I still don't know. Only time will tell if you ever hear about me in the sport of cycling again.”
“I love the sport of cycling so to only be able to perform at 50% of my best because of my health has been very frustrating. I miss the rider I used to be – the aggressive one attacking nonstop throughout the race. Therefore, I have made a really tough decision to change my focus away from racing. I have to get my body and my health right – that’s all that counts. But in the end I can be proud because I know I gave it my best until the end.”
Cozza rode a limited schedule with no results for much of 2011, his first year with NetApp, due to his health problems. After a reduced spring, he came back only briefly in the summer.
“Team NetApp has been very supportive and I am so happy that they have reached such a high level of success in such a short time. I wish so much that I was able to give more to the team. I will miss all the guys and wish them the very best this season” he said.
Team manager Ralph Denk said: “Steven was so crucial for helping our young team to advance. After our first year he was brave enough to believe in our ambitious plans. I take my hat off to this very private decision to pause the stressful side of life and to recharge his batteries.”
Cozza, 26, turned pro with Team Slipstream in 2007. He stayed with the US team for four years before joining NetApp. His career highlights include winning the best young rider award at the Tour of Missouri in 2007 and winning the U23 national time trial title in 2005.