Women's cycling legend Diana Ziliute has chosen to retire one year ahead of schedule after a bout with mononucleosis disrupted her season's plans.
"I wanted to do it. I wanted to race another year," said Ziliute. "I was clinging to the handlebars until the other day ... the toil, sweat, the tactics in the race, the sprint, the wind in my face have always been part of my life. It seemed impossible to me having to give up all this to face a different life. Eventually, though I had to face facts: I am done with competitive cycling. Now it is final."
She explained that she recently had a persistent fever, and doctors diagnosed her with mononucleosis, which meant several weeks of forced rest, pushing her season start well back. It was then that she decided to call quits to her long and storied career.
The 34-year-old has been a professional since her first senior season in 1995. Coming in as the '94 Junior World Champion, Ziliuite made a steady rise to the top of the sport, claiming the U23 time trial in 1997 before winning her two World Cups the next season and the 1998 elite road title.
The Lithuanian wonder then went on to become a fearsome stage racer and World Cup contender, winning the 1999 Grand Boucle, the 2000 World Cup overall, Giro d'Italia Femminile and a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games.
She continued to be a force in the women's peloton over the course of her career, regularly taking stage wins and World Cup victories and her national title in 2004 and 2006.
Throughout her career she remained loyal to the Safi Pasta Zara Manhattan team of Mauritius Fabretti, and she announced her intentions to remain with the squad as a directeur sportif.