Back problem and lack of contract spells the end for Hoste’s career
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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Back problem and lack of contract spells the end for Hoste’s career

by VeloNation Press at 8:12 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Injury
Triple Tour of Flanders runner-up hangs up his wheels

Leif HosteAfter a long struggle to get back to his best form, and after frustrations with injury and the after-effects of a serious crash in the 2011 Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, Leif Hoste has finally called it quits on his career and leaves the sport at 35 years of age.

The triple Tour of Flanders runner-up has been unable to ride his bike for several months due to a degenerating disk in his back, and faces possible surgery in the future. With no contract offers for the upcoming season and a body that no longer functions the way it once did, he’s hanging up his wheels and moving on with the next phase of his life.

“If I want to put on my shoes, I need to sit down on a chair,” he told Het Nieuwsblad, explaining the extent of his problems. “I will try again with injections and exercises and if that doesn’t work, I will have surgery. I last rode the bike in August.”

Hoste has had a modest career in recent seasons but at one point was seen as a likely winner of one of cycling’s top events. He highlighted his ability early on with a stage win in the 1998 Tour de l’Avenir, then followed that up with a stage win in the 2000 Tour de Wallonie plus gold in the following year’s Belgian time trial championships.

His first near miss in the big spring races was second in the 2003 Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne. He was then runner up in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen in 2004, 2006 and 2007, missing out to Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile), Tom Boonen (Quick Step – Innergetic) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre).

Winning the race became his big project but after that run of second places, he never quite reached the same form. He hoped a move to Katusha in 2011 would help him rediscover his best condition but crashed on stage one of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, banging his head on the road, sustaining a deep gash to his eyebrow, and breaking a front tooth.

The biggest problem ended up being the concussion he suffered plus the headaches which plagued him for months.

In August 2011 he told Het Laaste Nieuws that the cause of those headaches had been determined: he had a small tear in his brain. “I lose cerebrospinal fluid through the crack, so I get headaches at the slightest exertion,” he said then. “This can be solved with blood patches or with surgery. Hopefully, the misery will now be over quickly.”

That issue eventually was resolved but the Katusha team didn’t stick with the multi-year contract he had been given, dropping him. As a result he dropped down a level to the Verandas team.

He worked to try to get into good shape this year but had to be satisfied with seventeenth in the Omloop Het Niewsblad, twentieth in both Kuurne – Brussel – Kuurne and Nokere Koerse. He was a distant 37th in the Tour of Flanders.

Hoste said that he felt a further setback in the Presidential Tour of Turkey, where he was unable to climb properly due to his back issues. His form tailed off further from that point, making it difficult to find a place on a team for 2013.

“I don’t have a bad feeling about it,” he said, looking back at his career, “although I’d prefer to have caught a big fish [won a big race – ed.]. I know I'm not Gilbert or Boonen, but had my place just below that. I was second three times in the Tour of Flanders and think that many others would like to swap that with me.

“For Boonen or Cavendish, only first place counts; for me, second too. You should remember that I was 25th in my first Tour of Flanders. And that apart from those few races in the spring, I rode in the services of others. Really, I’m at peace about my career.”


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