The tight market for riders heading into next season has claimed another career, as Lucas Sebastián Haedo has decided to retire from pro cycling after he was unable to find a satisfactory offer for 2019.
The 35-year-old Argentinian sprinter rode for US Pro Continental team UnitedHealthcare the past two years, but when the team folded following this season he was unable to land a contract for next year that would allow him to continue racing, he recently told Cyclingnews.
It was a tough year for US cycling on the whole, as along with UnitedHealthcare, long-time Continental team Jelly Belly also pulled the plug, and Holowesko-Citadel reduced its roster and moved from Pro Continental status back to Continental.
"It was pretty hard to find a team for me - having to take care of my family - that would pay enough to live on," Haedo told Cyclingnews. "You can find a team in the US to race for free or for 15 grand, but you cannot race for that when you have a family.
"We also tried pretty hard with [rider agent Giovanni] Lombardi to find something in Europe, but in the end nothing really worked. It's too hard when you're outside of the circle in Europe to get in again. Really, to the last moments I had a few chances, but nothing really worked for me. After 12 years of professional, this is maybe the time to stop and focus on a new thing."
Haedo especially thanked his wife, Carolina, as the biggest supporter of his career, and for giving him two sons, Matias, 5, and Santiago, two months.
He comes from a close-knit cycling family, in which his father, sister and brother have all competed in road and track racing. He started racing with his older brother, Juan Jose "JJ" Haedo, as an amateur at home in Argentina and in Europe, eventually following his brother's footsteps to the US. As JJ Haedo moved on from US teams to Europe in 2007 with Team CSC, Sebastián Haedo signed his first pro contract with Rock Racing that same year. He described his year with the controversial team owned by Michael Ball as "not the best experience."
Haedo raced for fellow Argentinian Seba Alexandre at Colavita for the next two years, taking the biggest win of his career during a stage of the Tour de San Luis in 2009. The win earned him a spot alongside JJ at Saxo Bank in 2010.
"I think that year was maybe my best year in my career because I was chasing my dream," Sebastian said. "In 2010 I made a lot of results, but then I changed more to a lead-out guy."
Both brothers rode for Bjarne Riis at Saxo Bank through 2012. JJ then came back to the US with Jamis, and Sebastián stayed in Europe with Cannondale.
When the contract with Cannondale ended following the 2013 season, Sebastián Haedo's career was briefly up in the air. He landed a last-minute contract with Continental team SkyDive Dubai that kept him going for 2014, but the team stopped sending riders to races about halfway through the season. Haedo got a call from Alexandre, who was now running the Jamis team, and got an offer to ride back in the US.
"That team was like family to me," he said of the program that had morphed from the original Colavita outfit. "I really enjoyed that two years, and I made a lot of results coming back from Europe with another level in my legs."
When that team folded after the 2016 season, Haedo moved with Alexandre to UnitedHealthcare. In those final four years in the US, from 2015 through 2018, Haedo won three stages at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, two at the Joe Martin Stage Race and one at the Tour of the Gila. He also took numerous criterium wins, multiple podiums and mentored some of UnitedHealthcare's younger sprinters this year.
JJ Haedo and Lucas Sebastian Haedo at the Tour of Qatar. (Getty Images)
A perfect day in Catalunya
Despite spending just those three years on Saxo Bank together in the peloton, the Haedo brothers' careers are inexorably intertwined, and so it follows that Sebastián's best memory on the bike involves a win by JJ.
"Personally, racing with my brother, and racing the big tours with my brother, like Dauphine or Catalunya when I led out my brother and he won the stage, I think that was one of my best memories," Sebastián said.
"A lot of times I couldn't lead out my brother, because at the end it was often just him and me, and at that level it was too hard to lead him out because I spent all my energy to put him in a good spot in the last kilometre," he said. "But that day in Catalunya was perfect. We were sitting behind the other guys when we came into about 400 metres, and I was able to lead out my brother. He won pretty easy the last stage in Catalunya. That for sure is one of my best memories."
Other memories quickly come to mind for Haedo, like the shocked expressions of his Continental and Pro Continental teammates when some of the sport's biggest stars, who Haedo knows from his days on the WorldTour, would stop by to say hello. But his biggest takeaway from a 12-year pro career is simply that he chased his dreams and made many of them come true. He raced with some of the biggest stars in the sport in some of the biggest races in the sport. Not bad for a kid from Argentina, a country without a huge cycling culture compared with others.
"It was my dream to race in Europe in the best races in the world - I raced two Giro d'Italia, the Vuelta a España, two Pais-Roubaix - you know, I'm so happy with what I've made. My dream was racing in Europe with my brother, and finally I made it, and I'm so happy to have done it.
"I left home when I was 17 to race in Europe in 2001, and from there to now was only back to Argentina a few months every year, sometimes not at all because I could not afford to go back. But I'm so happy I could do it for so long. Now I'll start a new career. I'm looking forward to closing the door on my cycling career and opening a new door to see what is coming."