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After reaching a mutual agreement last Friday with his LPR team to leave the squad with immediate effect, Classics specialist Dario Pieri has announced in the Italian press on Tuesday that he is "returning to normal life" and turning his back on professional cycling. Pieri was due to lead the LPR team in Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, where he finished second in 2003 but was released from his contract "for not honouring aspects of his agreement with the team".
Speaking to La Nazione, a relieved-sounding Pieri said he was looking forward to life away from cycling. Little has gone right for the 30-year-old since he finished as runner-up at Roubaix three years ago. Widely agreed to be one of the most talented one-day riders of the current generation, Pieri has suffered injury and weight-related problems. The latter led to his release by Lampre during last season and his move to the LPR team.
Pieri and his former team have refused to say why their relationship has broken down, but he did struggle for form in races earlier this season when he was clearly still a few kilos over his ideal racing weight. All Pieri would say was that "it is useless getting up in the morning when you don't want to go out on the bike. I'm sick of the bike, and also with cycling".
Pieri, whose travails last season were outlined in procycling's Fab Four feature, had been talking about competing with the best at Roubaix, a race for which his team were given a wild card based largely on Pieri's expected participation. Now he says he is glad to have put the cycling scene behind him, saying: "Some events have affected me internally, but I don't want to say more about that."
Pieri declared he would not return to the sport but did express his thanks to all those people who had supported him, especially in recent times. He concluded by admitting he probably won't even follow Roubaix on the TV this Sunday. All in all, it's an unfortunate end to what once seemed certain to be a glittering pro career.
- Pieri's loss is, however, someone else's gain, in this case Ukraine's Yuri Mitlushenko, who has been signed by LPR from the Miche team to replace the Italian. Mitlushenko goes straight into LPR's line-up for Roubaix on Sunday.
Reports of rider injuries from last Sunday's Tour of Flanders continue to come through. Davitamon-Lotto's Wim de Vocht will be out until June after breaking an elbow and two ribs when he crashed. Bouygues Telecom's Spanish rider Xavier Florencio is out for a month after breaking his left collar-bone.
There's better news, though, for T-Mobile's Lorenzo Bernucci, who crashed heavily on the cobbled descent from the Koppenberg. He was hospitalised in Oudenaarde, but should be fit to line up at Ghent-Wevelgem on Wednesday.
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