Lotto-Belisol domestique to bow out on Friday
Jurgen Van de Walle has announced his retirement after a 15 year professional career as a hard working domestique and stage race rider. Van de Walle was due to retire at his local race in Zwevezele, in west Flanders on Friday but a leg injury has complicated his goodbye.
"The Giro di Lombardia will probably have been my last race. I have a problem with my left leg, the consequence of a crash in the Vuelta. My leg feels tired, that's why I didn't have power in Lombardia and abandoned. I'll be present in Zwevezele on Friday, but normally I won't get on the bike unless there's a spectacular improvement," he said via the Lotto-Belisol team.
The tall and powerful Belgian won just three races during his career but played a valuable role as a domestique, particularly in hilly races. He twice won Halle-Ingooigem and was part of the Quick Step team that won the team time trial at the 2008 tour of Qatar. He rode nine Grand Tours during his career and finished eighth overall in the 2008 Tour of California.
"When I started as a professional cyclist I definitely would have signed up for this career," he said confirming his retirement.
"I am a pure helper, I don't have the explosiveness to be a finisher. Soon I knew what qualities I had and built my career around it. When I rode in the bigger teams, I could become valuable as a helper. Winning yourself is always a great moment, you dream of it when you start cycling. I'm not the winning type, so the times I could, made me very happy."
"Taking part in the Tour stays something special, I'll always remember entering the Champs Élysées. I love all uphill races. My classic will always be Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I always found that the most beautiful race. What I'll always recollect is when as a neo pro I took part in the Tour of Flanders for the first time and the moment I rode from ‘t Zand to the Markt of Bruges, there were so many people. I am from the area and knew a lot of people, that was thrilling."
"Cycling has evolved a lot throughout the years, with slight exaggeration one can say it has almost become another sport. In the beginning with Palmans we went to the races in a transit bus, now that's with the luxurious bus of Lotto Belisol. The amount of staff is three times more. On top of that the last five years there is a tendency to make the races as tough as possible. With the establishment of the ProTour and later the WorldTour much has changed. Everything is more professional, but there's also more pressure on the riders."
Van de Walle is latest of a series of retirements and changes at Lotto Belisol.
Dirk Bellemakers has also retired, while Brian Bulgac, Joost van Leijen, Gaeten Bille, Maarten Neyens and Frederique Robert have not had their contracts renewed. Robert is set to ride for the new-look Wanty team.