After returning home from the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Canberra, Australia, this past weekend, Filip Meirhaeghe said his final farewell to professional cycling competition. Days following his 19th place finish in the cross country world championship race, the 38-year-old Belgian announced his retirement.
"For me, real life starts now," said Meirhaeghe, contented with his decision. "In January, I started a new job. I have two roles. I work with a company that organizes events for charity, and I've also been asked to be a part-time coach for youth in mountain biking."
Meirhaeghe is best known for his mountain bike racing accomplishments, but he also raced road, track and cyclo-cross. He won a silver medal in the cross country mountain bike race at the Olympic Games in 2000 in Sydney and was World Champion in cross country in 2003 in Lugano. From 1999 to 2002, he won three other world championship medals.
At the 1997 World Mountain Biking Championships in Chateau d'Oex, Meirhaeghe was one of four riders not permitted to race due to a hematocrit above 50 percent. A high hematocrit can be indicative of EPO use, although it is not proof.
Meirhaeghe tested positive for EPO in an out of competition test in 2004. He served a 15-month doping suspension, and then returned to racing, in January of 2006, on the road for Landbouwkrediet-Colnago and off road for Versluys-Landbouwkrediet-Sportstech. He previously raced for Specialized off road and Domina Vacanze-Elitron on the road.
In his retirement, Meirhaeghe probably won't quit riding. "With my strong performance on Sunday, I might just have to keep riding. But I've turned a corner, and I'm building a new future.
Follow Cyclingnews on Twitter for the very latest coverage of events taking place in the cycling world - twitter.com/cyclingnewsfeed.