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Ralph Naef (Multivan Merida Biking Team)
Swiss rider will focus on healing nagging back problem
Mountain biker Ralph Näf announced on Tuesday that he is quitting the 2011 racing season early due to health concerns. A persistent pain in his back has only gotten worse in recent weeks, and the Swiss rider does not feel he can compete with the world's elite at this time.
Instead of racing the final World Cup in Italy this weekend and the world championships on home soil in Switzerland two weeks later, Näf, who races for Multivan Merida, plans to undergo more detailed medical check-ups in order to return to his old strength for the 2012 Olympic season.
"That really was a difficult decision for me to take," said Näf. "Actually I am in a very good shape, but due to my back pain I cannot transform that shape into good results over the full distance of a race."
During recent races, the pain in Näf's back has been so strong that his left leg has felt almost paralyzed at times.
"I want to compete with the world's elite, and at the moment, I can only do that during the first half of a race. So I have to overcome these health issues in order to become a contender for wins in international races again next season."
Näf has won the European championships three times and managed to win a world championship in 2006. He is hoping to contend for a medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.