Moreno Moser has announced his retirement from professional cycling at the age of 28, explaining that he has no long-term injury or illness but simply cannot sustain a high level of performance.
The Italian, nephew of former world champion Francesco Moser, was considered a bright prospect when he turned professional in 2012 but his career has declined in recent years and his contract with the Pro Continental-level Nippo Vini Fantini team has been terminated after just over four months.
On top of the family connections, expectations on Moser were sky high as he won five races in his first pro season with Liquigas, including the Tour of Poland. The following year he won Strade Bianche, beating then teammate Peter Sagan. The success, however, dried up, and Moser has only won two races in the past six years, a stage of the Tour of Austria in 2015 and the Trofeo Laigueglia in 2018.
He gradually assumed a bit-part role as the Liquigas/Cannondale and Garmin teams merged to form what is now EF Education First, before transferring to Astana in 2017. The Laigueglia win – when riding for the Italian national team – seemed a sign that things might be back on track but, such was the frequency with which he was dropped in subsequent races, by the end of the year he was saying that racing had "become a nightmare".
He dropped from the WorldTour to join Nippo Vini Fantini in a bid to breathe life into his career, but it has not gone as hoped and he has decided to call an early end to his life as a pro cyclist.
"I can no longer keep the peaks of form for the performances I am facing," said Moser, speaking to Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport about his decision.
"I have always been a winner, but my down moments have become longer and longer in recent years. They are not attributable to any particular physical deficit –after much analysis and many tests, we are certain that I have no diseases or viruses.
"Failing more to have moments of top quality, and given the longer and longer down times, I prefer to stop without dragging myself on unnecessarily. It's also only fair to everyone involved. I can only thank the team for how they welcomed me and the faith they put in me. I found an exceptional and highly professional environment. It could have been a great success for both of us but it didn't go that way, so I'm ready to say 'enough'."
Moser's retirement follows that of his cousin, Ignazio Moser, who hung up his wheels in 2014 at the age of 22 before his promising career had really begun.
It represents a disappointment for the Nippo team, who had hoped they could pick up a world-class rider on a relative bargain and provide the sort of environment in which he could flourish again and bring in some important results.
"Needless to say, it is a great regret to see a valuable athlete like Moreno quit. We knew it would be a challenge and we all put in the effort until the end," the team's general manager, Francesco Pelosi, told La Gazzetta.
"We have a solid team based on existing structures, so Moreno was able to work in total serenity and without stress in this 2019. However, arriving at this umpteenth down condition, after a stellar winter as shown by the preparation data, we could only accept Moreno's decision, a shared decision and a mature one."