Dutch cyclo-cross professional Maarten Nijland has decided to retire from the sport. After struggling for the past few season with injury, Nijland decided to end his career effective immediately instead of undergoing surgery for narrowing of his iliac artery.
"It has been a tough few weeks," Nijland explained on his website. "But after diverse examinations and meetings with the best vascular surgeons in the Netherlands and the rest of the world, the risks associated with an operation are too great for me.
"I can't and won't take the risk to have only a chance to return to the top level of the sport," he added. "So it leaves me with no choice but to retire. Despite the fact that I still have that fighting spirit, I am relieved."
Nijland was forced to forfeit the Dutch cyclo-cross championships in January this year after a poor season. A training camp in Spain also couldn't turn the tide. To his surprise Nijland was selected to ride the World Championships for the Netherlands but was pulled early in the race.
"I decided not to finish the season, and agonizingly watched the last few cross' races on TV instead," he said. "I belonged there, that was my world. But I knew that I didn't have anything to gain there with my leg.
"My sports doctor, Dion van Bommel suggested that we contact the hospital in Veldhoven [The Netherlands]," he added. "They do a lot of research into vascular problems common for cyclists. I have a circulation problem in both legs due to a kink in both arteries. At that moment I was relieved, it wasn't training but it was my body again that applied the brakes."
The injury is common amongst cyclists, with Stuart O'Grady undergoing surgery to rectify the problem in 2002 before going on to win the Paris-Roubaix last year. The operation is however dangerous, with former Barloworld rider Ryan Cox passing away last year after his artery burst following the procedure.
Nijland will now concentrate his energy on developing his uncle's sports shoe business in Enchede, The Netherlands. Previously he worked there two days a week, but is now hoping to take over the business soon.
"I have a good alternative to cycling at the moment in running," he said. "I am training four times a week. It has been a huge transformation but a whole lot of fun. I hope to start my first running race soon. I joined an athletics association [LAAC Twente]. The complaints that I have from cycling remain, luckily, at bay thanks to this."