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Sergio Henao announces retirement from cycling

Sergio Henao
Sergio Henao during his heyday with Team Sky as winner of Paris-Nice in 2017 (Image credit: Getty)

Sergio Henao conceded that his professional cycling career is over after he was unable to find a WorldTour contract for 2022 in the wake of the demise of the Qhubeka-NextHash team in December.

The Colombian joined Qhubeka last year after two seasons at UAE Team Emirates and seven in the colours of Team Sky. The biggest victory of his career came when he won Paris-Nice in 2017, and he confirmed his retirement from the sport five years on from that triumph.

“I have finished my professional career and in Europe,” Henao told Antena 2 (opens in new tab). “There were offers, but not really any that appealed to me. I didn't have any clear offer from a World Tour team, just a few approaches, but nothing materialised.”

Henao downplayed the idea that he could sit out this season and then try to return to the professional peloton in 2022.

“It's difficult when you stop racing for a year to return to the elite of world cycling. A year away weighs heavily. The races, the rhythm... you can lose a lot,” he said. “It's difficult when you disappear for a season. Even so, one always keeps hope at the beginning of the year, many things can happen in teams, but nothing appeared so I have the idea that it will not be possible.”

"When I watch the races I get a bit nostalgic, but that's life. It's a moment that had to come. It was just sooner than we had planned.”

Former Qhubeka rider Domenico Pozzovivo recently signed for Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, while Simon Clarke signed a one-year deal with Israel Premier Tech in January. A number of other Qhubeka riders are still seeking contracts for 2022, including recently-crowned South African champion Reinardt Janse van Rensburg.

Henao emerged with the Colombia es Pasion Continental squad before going on to win the Vuelta a Colombia in 2010 and placing second at the 2011 Tour of Utah behind Levi Leipheimer. He stepped up to the WorldTour when he joined Team Sky the following season, and he placed 9th overall in his Grand Tour debut at the Giro d’Italia. In 2013, he placed second at Flèche Wallonne and won stages at both the Volta ao Algarve and Tour of the Basque Country.

His best Tour de France placing of 12th came on his debut in 2016, when he helped Chris Froome to overall victory. Earlier that season, the UCI announced that biological passport proceedings had been opened against Henao, though the case was dropped in May of that year after his explanations were reviewed by the expert panel. 

Team Sky had previously withdrawn Henao from their roster in 2014 after detecting anomalies in his blood values. He was cleared to return to competition at that year's Tour de Suisse, though his season ended soon afterwards when he fractured his kneecap in a crash during his recon of the stage 6 time trial.

Henao was the victim of another serious crash in 2016, when he was in the hunt for the gold medal in the road race at the Rio Olympics only to slide out of contention on the treacherous final descent of Vista Chinesa.

Henao went on to support Froome to victory on the 2017 Tour and 2018 Giro d’Italia, but his finest moment came at the 2017 Paris-Nice, when he took yellow from Julian Alaphilippe on the penultimate stage and then withstood Alberto Contador’s fierce fightback on the final day to win the overall title by two seconds.

After winning a second successive Colombian title in 2018, Henao moved to UAE Team Emirates the following season. The highlight of his time with the team was his 15th place overall at the 2020 Vuelta a España. He finished 21st at last year’s Tour de France in the colours of Qhubeka-NextHash. His cousin Sebastian Henao left Ineos at the end of 2021 after eight seasons with the team, moving on to Astana-Qazaqstan.

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