Australian Jack Bobridge has decided to end his professional cycling career at age 27 rather than continue to suffer from the rheumatoid arthritis that has been exacerbated by a heavy training and racing schedule.
In an exclusive interview with The Advertiser, Bobridge said that the suffering was not worth it anymore.
"There's pain in my feet, hands and my back. When you get the flare ups your body is fighting it and a Grand Tour is hard enough as it is," Bobridge said.
"I don't really care what anyone else thinks I could have done or what I've done, I only went back to Europe this year to finalise things in my own head and I found it wasn't enjoyable with the arthritis and the pain," he said. "I could drag on for three or four years but come 40 or 50 the damage it's going to do and the arthritis in my body ... I don't see sport is worth it."
With less riding, he says he feels much better.
"Since the (Rio) Games and backing off the training and racing load I've found my arthritis has been 100 per cent better and I've been able to get off all meds (medication) as well," he said.
Bobridge was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease in 2010, which affected joints in his hands, wrists, feet and back. He managed to continue racing through the occasional Therapeutic Use Exemptions for corticosteroids, but opted to quit racing instead.
"I'm still on the bike three times a week but in terms of the arthritis it's been way less stressful on the joints and body."
Bobridge, the U23 world champion in the time trial in 2009, went straight from to the WorldTour on the back of that victory with the Garmin team. He set the world record in the individual pursuit in 2011, beating Chris Boardman's record that had stood for 15 years.
But the arthritis took its toll on his road career, and he struggled to live up to his early promise. He left the WorldTour after the 2014 season to race with the Continental squad Budget Forklifts.
"I chose to come back to Australia last year to concentrate on the track, and when I went back into the WorldTour this year it was one last stab at it," he said.
He returned to the top tier with Trek-Segafredo this season, completing a Grand Tour (the Giro d'Italia) for the first time, then went on to take his second Olympic Games silver medal in the team pursuit in Rio.
On the track, Bobridge owns three world titles, one in the individual pursuit and two in the team pursuit, he's won the Commonwealth Games twice each in the team and individual pursuit, and has numerous national titles, including this year's Australian road race - all before his 30th birthday. He says he is leaving the sport with no regrets.
"I've had a good career, I've got good results and done Comm Games, Olympics and worlds, road and track, I've lived a good life in Europe and to me the decision is pretty easy, and since I made it I haven't thought twice about it.
"I haven't thought 'am I doing the right thing?' and I suppose after a few months of not racing if you haven't got that hunger I guess you know it's the right decision."
The only thing missing is the elusive Olympic gold medal - something he hopes might come to his family eventually.
"It's funny because my grandfather was a state champion, my old man was national champion and I was world champion — I can't jump two in front, I could only jump one.
"Maybe one of my kids can add the Olympic gold."
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