David Moncoutié (Cofidis) has confirmed that he will bring the curtain down on his career when the Vuelta a España draws to a close on Sunday. The Frenchman had initially planned to retire at the end of last season, but postponed his decision following a strong showing at the Vuelta.
“This time my decision is irrevocable,” Moncoutié told L’Équipe. “I let out a little bit of uncertainty after the Tour de l’Ain [in August – ed.] but my decision had really already been taken before the Tour de France. My crash in July only confirmed my choice.”
Moncoutié was forced to abandon his 11th and final Tour de France when he crashed on stage 12, but he was determined to return to action in time for the Vuelta, where he has won a stage and the mountains classification in each of the past four editions of the race.
This time around, the 37-year-old Moncoutié is off the pace in the mountains competition, but he still harbours ambitions of signing off with a victory later this week. “I’m going to fight until the end. Everybody in my situation would like to finish with a win. I’m still motivated to do well during these few days,” he said.
Always balanced in his response to victory and defeat, Moncoutié acknowledged that his travails in this Vuelta have simply been a confirmation that the time is right to put an end to his career.
“I don’t have great feelings and my legs are struggling to follow. I don’t have the same level as in years gone by,” he said. “I undoubtedly needed this kind of situation to accept the fact that my time in cycling is done. That’s sport! I’m in decline and you need to accept it. On Sunday evening, I’ll hang up my bike.”
Moncoutié turned professional with Cofidis in 1997 and has spent his entire career with the French squad. Twice a stage winner at the Tour, Moncoutié was tipped as an overall contender in his youth, but in spite of his talent, 13th in 2002 would prove to be the summit of his GC ambitions during the Lance Armstrong era.
“I won two stages on the Tour, four on the Vuelta and four mountains jerseys too, so I think I did my job,” Moncoutié said. “I’d like to thank Cofidis for allowing me to progress, for putting their confidence in me and giving me the freedom to do what I wanted.”
Moncoutié seems unlikely to remain involved in the professional side of the sport when he hangs up his wheels. “I don’t necessarily want to stay in the professional environment but I do want to ride my bike for pleasure,” he said.
Before that, however, Moncoutié has to negotiate five stages of the Vuelta a España, starting with a testing stage to Fuente Dé on Wednesday. “Only five days to go,” he said. “I find myself with the same state of mind as a normal person counting down the days to retirement.”