Team Qhubeka NextHash have announced that Fabio Aru will bring his racing career to a close at the end of the Vuelta a España at the age of 31. Aru confirmed the somewhat surprise decision in an emotional post on Instagram.
The Italian, who joined the team from UAE Team Emirates this year, is set to end his career after 10 years and nine professional victories, including the 2015 edition of the Vuelta.
Qhubeka NextHash stated that Aru was stepping away from the sport to focus on spending time with his family.
Aru won a stage at the 2017 Tour de France and wore the leader's yellow jersey for two days. However he underwent surgery on an iliac artery problem and has struggled to find his best form and consistency since then, also fighting Epstein-Barr syndrome and Cytomegalovirus.
"Reaching this decision has not been easy but it is something that I've been thinking about and discussing with my family for some time," Aru said.
"I've been racing my bike for 16 years and for more than a decade as a professional, but the time has come now to prioritise other things in my life, my family. During my career, as any bike rider will tell you, a significant time is spent away from home and for me this is now the right time to give back to them.
"I also want to express a deep sense of gratitude to all of my former teammates and staff at my former teams - Astana and UAE - who elevated me throughout my career. We shared some incredible moments, which I'll forever be grateful for.
"Finally, I want to pay a special tribute to Team Qhubeka NextHash. Within our organisation we speak about the spirit of Ubuntu – I am because we are - and this sense of togetherness, at a time when the world needs it most, has been amazing for me to be a part of."
The former Italian champion has three Giro d'Italia stages on his palmares plus two at the Vuelta and a La Planche des Belles Filles win at the 2017 Tour de France. He has enjoyed a recent resurgence this summer, taking second place at both the Sibiu Cycling Tour and the Vuelta a Burgos.
However, he has decided to bring his career to a close this year, writing on Instagram that the decision has given him tearful sleepless nights.
"As the days and time go by I will have the chance to tell all the best and worst moments of my professional career," he wrote. "By now there's another point to make.
"I thought a lot about what was the right decision to make, sleepless nights, crying and whatnot. But if I'm honest, I've learned even more to love the sport, which has led me to achieve goals I would have never imaged, fight with the strongest cyclists in the world, travel, learn about new cultures, participate and be a protagonist at the Olympics…
"And today, despite being here to tell you this important choice of my life, I can shout loudly that I love cycling, I love even more to ride a bike, I love training, and I have no intention of leaving it in a garage. But like all beginnings, there is always an end.
"The Vuelta will be my last race as a professional cyclist. I'm very proud of what I've done, but being a stubborn man I would have liked to do so much more. One thing is for sure though: I've given it my all down to the last drop of sweat, and I'll give it in the next three weeks.
"Now it's time to enjoy a new chapter in my life next to my family. There will be time in the coming days for thanks, but a special thanks goes to those who have allowed me – with great sacrifices – to be who I am," he wrote, thanking his parents and partner Valentina."
Aru's career-ending race, the Vuelta, begins on Saturday in Burgos. He will lead the Qhubeka NextHash team, racing alongside Sergio Henao, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Dimitri Claeys, Dylan Sunderland, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Sander Armée, and Connor Brown.
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