Bartoli bowing out at 34

Italian Classics star Michele Bartoli has said that a lack of motivation to train is to blame for hi

Italian Classics star Michele Bartoli has said that a lack of motivation to train is to blame for hi
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Michele Bartoli has today put an end to speculation about his future by announcing his retirement from professional cycling. As expected, Bartoli relayed the news this morning at a press conference in Milan. Flanked by CSC team manager and long-term friend Bjarne Riis, the Italian admitted that his dwindling motivation, more than a recurring leg injury, had prompted the decision. "I have a winner's mentality, but I no longer felt mentally ready to accept the sacrifices which cycling requires," Bartoli, a winner of seven World Cup races in his twelve-year career, explained. "It's a reluctant decision, because I love cycling, but I no longer felt prepared to give CSC one hundred per cent, as it deserves. Hence I'm bowing out, even though I had an excellent contract for 2005." Due to a persistent pain in his left leg, Bartoli was unable to recommence training on his return from holiday in Mexico earlier this month. But the Italian said today: "I first thought about retirement when I came back from Mexico. The thought of getting back on my bike was a weight on my shoulders; I realised then that it was time to quit. I know that the competition is what I will miss most from now on. "The problem with my leg? It didn't influence my decision much, because ever since 1999 I've learned to live with physical problems," Bartoli continued. CSC supremo Riis expressed his regret at Bartoli's decision, especially as the Italian had one year remaining on his contract. The Dane revealed this morning that Bartoli had been offered a technical role in the team, but that he preferred to pause for reflection. "I would like to have Michele working in the team, because his experience could be very useful," Riis admitted. "But I advised him to take a rest, to figure out what he really wants to do. I did it myself, when I quit as a rider, and you need to take that time out." Bartoli will be remembered as one of the most stylish and prolific Classics hunters of the past decade. Despite never regaining his explosive edge after a horrific knee injury sustained in the 1999 Tour of Germany, the Tuscan had never gone a season without at least one major win until this year. "I have had some brilliant wins," Bartoli reflected today, "but the 2002 Amstel Gold Race was a special moment. It came on the back of some tough times and my wife, Alessandra, was pregnant with our daughter Clarissa. That win gave me a special feeling." Bartoli's major victories: 2003: Giro del Lazio, Tour of Lombardy 2002: Amstel Gold Race, Tour of Lombardy, Milano-Torino, Giro dell'Emilia, Tour Mditerranen 2001: GP Camaiore, Het Volk 2000: Italian National Championship, GP Ouest France Plouay 1999: Flche Wallonne, Flche Brabanonne, Tirreno-Adriatico 1998: Lige-Bastogne-Lige, World Cup overall, GP de Gippingen, Championship of Zurich, Trois Jours de la Panne, Giro di Romagna, one stage Giro d'Italia 1997: Lige-Bastogne-Lige, World Cup overall, Trofeo Melinda, Trofeo Laigueglia 1996: Tour of Flanders, GP de Fourmies, Giro dell'Emilia 1995: Trois Jours de la Panne 1994: Flche Brabanonne, one stage Giro d'Italia, GP Pino Cerami
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