Spanish cyclist Joseba Beloki, a three-time podium finisher on the Tour de France, announced his retirement December 21.
The 34-year-old had been without a team since being implicated, along with dozens of other cyclists, in the ‘Operation Puerto’ doping affair which has dominated the sport’s headlines over the past 18 months.
Beloki finished runner-up to Lance Armstrong in 2002, having finished third in 2000 and 2001.
But he is equally known for being the rider whose attack, during a descent on stage nine in the 2003 Tour, forced Armstrong to famously ride through a grassy field after the Spaniard had spilled onto the road.
Beloki suffered multiple fractures, and it was not until 2006 that he fully returned to the peloton with the Liberty team being run by Spaniard Manolo Saiz, having spent a few brief months with the Boulangere team in France.
The Operation Puerto affair erupted in May 2006, implicating Saiz and dozens of cyclists who were said to be clients of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes.
Fuentes was suspected of running a doping and blood doping service, andalthough the affair is still not over some top cyclists, including Italian Ivan Basso, have been sanctioned due to their links with Fuentes.
Due to the Liberty team’s suspected links with Fuentes, the entire team was removed from the Tour de France prior to the start in 2006.
Beloki began his professional career in 1998 with Euskaltel, before moving on to Festina, ONCE, Brioches La Boulangere and Liberty.
He said he had no regrets about his career.
“I’m leaving with my head held high, and proud of what I’ve achieved,” said the Spaniard. “It’s been 18 months since I last raced. And in that time I’ve fought tooth and nail to try and find a team, but it just didn’t materialise.”
© Bikeradar & AFP 2007