Erik Dekker (Rabobank) has called time on his career after failing to recover from injuries sustained on stage 4 of the Tour, he announced at a news conference in Zwolle, The Netherlands, yesterday. The 'Gouden Pijl' criterium, raced later today in Emmen, will be Dekker's last race. Dekker had planned to retire at the end of the season.
Dekker said that his injuries also made it difficult to find the motivation to return to the top level, "Besides the obvious physical injuries I sustained, it mainly became a mental struggle. I could not find the strength and will to continue on for just a couple more months. Whatever I do, I always want to give hundred percent, but my motivation was gone. There was nothing inside me that told me to continue," Dekker said.
Rabobank manager Erik Breukink was convinced that he would continue on after his fall in July, "He doesn't want to leave the sport like this, I thought back then. I underestimated the mental impact of it. I fully understand his choice, but I still think it is a shame that a cyclist who dominated the world of Dutch cycling with Boogerd for the last ten years, must retire like this. Dekker to me is one of the best cyclists Holland has ever known," said Breukink.
Rabobank directeur sportif Theo de Rooy said that he knew that Dekker would struggle to come back after his fall, "I knew it from the moment I saw Dekker lying in the hospital. I know what it takes to get back to this international level. There was nothing left for him to win on a bike," he said.
Dekker will begin his role as a team director earlier than expected, "We are glad that Dekker will stay with us [as a director]. We might lose a top-class cyclist but we'll get a very motivated team leader in return. Someone who can play an important role and is a strengthening of our technical staff," said De Rooy.
Dekker has recorded 72 victories as a professional rider - 59 of which were for Rabobank. Dekker is one of four riders - the others are Michael Boogerd, Jan Boven and Richard Groenendaal - who have been with the Rabobank team since its inception.
The year 2000 was Dekker's best as a cyclist with a total of 14 victories. He won three stages in the Tour and the overall in the Tour of Holland. He also won the San Sebastian classic World Cup race and backed up with a second Dutch national title in the individual time trial.