Juan Antonio Flecha announces retirement at the end of the season
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Monday, October 07, 2013

Juan Antonio Flecha announces retirement at the end of the season

by Ben Atkins at 8:17 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Tour of Beijing will be the final race for Classics nearly-man

juan antonio flechaJuan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) will retire after the Tour of Beijing, the 36-year-old Spanish veteran confirmed to El Pais yesterday. The Argentine-born Spaniard has been a professional since joining Relax-Fuenlabrada in 2000 but, with his current team folding at the end of the year, he has decided to call an end to his career.

"Now I say goodbye forever to cycling at the Tour of Beijing," Fleacha said, "and I can’t wait to finish that race in mid-October and go to Maui, Hawaii, with an open date on the return ticket.

“I will exchange the asphalt for the foam of the waves, and the bike for a surfboard, and walk barefoot all day, and be free."

Flecha has arguably been the best Cobbled Classics rider of the last decade to never win one, with his second place and two thirds at Paris-Roubaix, and third place at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. In fact, since taking third in the 2005 edition, the Spanish rider has failed to finish inside the top ten of the Hell of the North just once in the years since.

The one big cobbled race he did manage to win was the 2010 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, giving Team Sky a rare single-day race victory in its first season. He also finished second and third twice each in the traditional Flemish season-opener, and was once third in Gent-Wevelgem.

Despite being one of the most combative riders in the peloton, Flecha’s wins were few and far between, but his biggest came in the Züri-Metzgete - the Championship of Zurich - in 2004, when it was still part of the UCI World Cup, and the 11th stage of the 2003 Tour de France, between Narbonne and Toulouse - where he became the first Argentine-born rider to win at the Tour.

Other than his almost constant presence at the front of the Cobbled races, the most famous - or infamous - incident involving Flecha came on stage nine of the 2010 Tour, when he was sideswiped by a France Televisions car while part of a five-man breakaway. Flecha himself was thrown onto the tarmac, where he suffered a considerable amount of roadrash, but most of the subsequent headlines were taken by future Vacansoleil-DCM teammate Johnny Hoogerland, who was hurled into a barbed-wire fence.

Having finished 13th in his final edition of il Lombardia, Flecha will ride his first ever edition of the Tour of Beijing, before hanging up his wheels for good.

“I saw everything clearly one day recently,” he told El Pais. “It clicked. I saw what I wanted to do with my life and what I had to do.”

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