35-year-old Ryder Hesjedal will call an end to his 18-year long career at the end of this season, his Trek-Segafredo team announced today. The Canadian has not yet decided on his final race, but confirmed he would compete in the Tour of Alberta and the two WorldTour races, the GP Motreal and Quebec.
Hesjedal's one-year contract with Trek-Segafredo promised to revive his Grand Tour ambitions, and he headed into the Giro d'Italia with designs on regaining the podium which he had topped in 2012 when he became the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour.
Even before his Giro fizzled out in the first week, Hesjedal hinted that he was considering retirement. He abandoned the race on stage 14, citing stomach problems. He then lined out at the Critérium du Dauphiné in support of Bauke Mollema, but was not selected for Trek's Tour de France team. He withdrew his name from consideration for Canada's Olympic team in June.
"It definitely wasn't an easy decision, but it seemed like the right time," Hesjedal said of his decision to retire. "I am ready to move on to other challenges in life. It's been two decades focusing on the competition of cycling in two different disciplines, and now I want to use that experience in other ways."
Hesjedal began his career in mountain biking, racing to medals in the world championships in that discipline at the Junior and U23 ranks before taking an elite silver medal in Lugano in 2003. The next year he switched to the road with US Postal and raced two seasons with Lance Armstrong's team before moving to Phonak in 2006.
In 2013, Hesjedal admitted to doping after Michael Rasmussen published an autobiography in which he claimed to have taught Hesjedal how to take EPO in 2003, but said he had given testimony to that effect to the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES) prior to the publication. He claimed he "stopped what I was doing many years before I joined Slipstream Sports".
Hesjedal raced with the Garmin-Slipstream program for eight seasons, from 2008 through 2015, winning the Giro d'Italia with the team in 2012, and taking two Vuelta a España stage wins (2009, 2014) and one stage in the Tour of California during his time there - his only professional victories. He also placed fifth overall in the Tour de France in 2010 and was second in the Amstel Gold Race in the same year.
He signed with Trek-Segafredo last season on a one-year contract.
"I am indebted to [team manager] Luca [Guercilena] and Trek-Segafredo for believing in me and giving me another stab at the Giro, but things just didn't work out with me getting sick. 2016 is not finished and I am highly motivated for the final races. When I leave it will be knowing that I gave everything until my last race," Hesjedal said.
"I am really grateful for my time in the sport and for all of the support I have received over the years from my teams, family, friends and especially the fans. I truly love cycling and to be able to race at the level I have for so many years has been everything I dreamed it would be since I was a kid and just riding for fun. I want to get back to that and do different things on the bike and in life in general."