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JJ Haedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) at the front before his win.
Argentinian sprinter waves farewell to the peloton
Sprint specialist Juan Jose "JJ" Haedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) told Cyclingnews this week that 2014 will be his last season as a professional. The 33-year-old Grand Tour stage winner did not race last week's Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and will not start the upcoming USA Pro Challenge with his team, so July's Cascade Cycling Classic was likely his last official race.
"There's no one specific thing that made me make the decision," Haedo said. "I'm just getting a bit tired and losing a little bit of motivation. It's harder to train, so little by little I'm kind of losing that. Also being away from the family that many years."
Haedo said the sport is difficult enough when riders are 100 percent committed, and the job becomes even harder when the motivation wanes.
"You train by yourself everyday, or even with a group of friends or something, but every day you train on your own," he said. "You get your bike and go, and there's not actually someone telling you to do it. And if you are not willing to do that everyday or you feel like that, then it's not working."
The accomplished Argentinian sprinter, who won a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2011, returned to the domestic circuit last year after spending six seasons on the WorldTour and riding in seven Grand Tours, including the Tour de France in 2012.
Before losing his spot on Saxo Bank following a roster shake up in 2012, Haedo had a good run in Europe, grabbing 21 wins between 2007 and 2012. He took stages at Tirenno-Adriatico, Volta Catalunya and Criterium du Dauphiné to go along with his Vuelta win. He also won stages at the former tours of Missouri and Georgia, and he has five stage wins at the Tour of California.
The Vuelta win is obviously a result that stands out for Haedo.
"I did many Grand Tours, and then finally getting the win there was kind of like getting a degree," he said. "It was really hard, especially in a big tour like that where you may only have three sprint days. So that was a highlight for me for sure."
Haedo began his pro career in 2003 with Colavita before moving to Europe with CSC for two seasons starting in 2007. The team raced as Saxo Bank from 2009 through 2012, but following that season, Haedo and his brother Lucas found themselves without contracts late in the year. He signed with Jamis-Hagens Berman at the start of last season, while Lucas rode with Cannondale in 2013 and SkyDive Dubai this year.
Sebastian Alexandre, the Jamis-Hagens Berman director who is a compatriot, friend and former teammate of Haedo, came to the US with him more than a decade ago to try and make a living racing bikes. They both rode for Colavita for several seasons before Haedo moved on to Europe and Alexandre moved behind the wheel of the team car.
They were reunited as rider and director at the Continental team over the past two seasons, and Alexandre credited his friend and former teammate with helping the team climb to its current spot among the top US domestic squads.
"Without the radios it's very important to have a rider and leader like him," Alexandre said. "On the other hand, we are close friends. We came to the US very young with a dream in 2001, and 13 years later seeing that we have both accomplished what we wanted is very pleasant. Life gave us the opportunity to work together again, and we definitely took the opportunity."
Haedo took eight wins his first season with Jamis, including all three criterium stages of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. He also won two stages at the Joe Martin Stage Race and the criterium at Redlands.
He was slightly less productive on the domestic circuit this season, bringing in half as many wins, two of which were at smaller local races. His biggest win in the US this season came during the road race stage at Joe Martin. Haedo put his final mark in the victory column in June during stage 3 of the Grand Prix Saguenay in Canada.
But Haedo said his experience at Jamis, paired up again with his old friend Alexandre, went beyond earning his own results.
"[Alexandre] gave me the opportunity, and I think I paid it back pretty well, not only with results, but bringing that little experience that I learned from the teams in Europe, trying to make everything work together as a team," Haedo said. "When you try to teach or show something, then it rewards you even when you don't win. It's rewarding to know that someone is learning from you. So it's been a really good experience for me."
Haedo said his immediately plans for the future involve simply relaxing for the first time in many years. Cycling is a full-time job, he said, so he's looking forward to being able to do many things he had to shun as a racer.
"It's not like a normal job," he said. "You have to commit your whole life: the way you eat, the way you sleep, the way you do things. So not having to think about that for a little bit will be nice – just being able to do whatever you want. It's not like you can go to dinner or drinks or whatever you want [as a professional racer]. You are constantly saying more 'no' than 'yes.' So I'm looking forward to saying 'yes' to those things."
Looking back on his career, Haedo said he is satisfied with what he accomplished, given the place that he started and the specific challenges he faced.
"It's been quite long and very successful, at least at my point of a rider," he said. "If you want to compare to some bigger guys, then you think you're not very accomplished. But I did what I could with my limits. I was a track rider who became a criterium rider who became a road rider, and I ended up in Europe doing Grand Tours. So that's a long way."
Haedo also made special note to thank everyone who helped him and his career along the way. While taking a break from packing his bags Thursday for a return trip to Argentina, Haedo said he hopes to be involved with cycling in some capacity once he is finished enjoying his new status as a retiree from the pro ranks.
"For sure it's going to be something related with the sport," he said of his future plans. "Since I've been doing it for so long I can share the experience I have from years past. But for the moment, I will relax and enjoy my family and friends and maybe travel around a bit for fun."