Cycling star steps on the brakes

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Thor Hushovd, Norway’s top cycling star of all time, announced Friday he would retire after the cycling world championships in Spain at the end of September. The 36-year-old Hushovd, a former world champion himself, admitted that he’d been troubled both physically and mentally this season, and has decided that his professional cycling career must end soon.

Thor Hushovd could enjoy another cycling victory this week, this time in the Tour of Poland. PHOTO: Szymon Gruchalski/tourdepologne.pl

It’s been a while since Norwegian cyclist Thor Hushovd could enjoy a victory, like this one in the Tour of Poland. Now he’s ending what otherwise has been a brilliant career. PHOTO: Szymon Gruchalski/tourdepologne.pl

“I’ve been pushing myself enormously with a virus in my body,” Hushovd told reporters at a press conference Friday morning. He was referring to the first signs of a viral ailment in 2012 that launched the “nightmare” of the past two seasons when his performance declined markedly.

“I haven’t viewed all the problems I’ve met as problems, but rather as obstacles I’d get over,” Hushovd said. “That’s how I’ve thought my whole career.”

But his season has been his third with the nagging virus, and he said that “now I need a vacation, and I’ll go home to Grimstad (the city on Norway’s southern coast where he’s from) and unwind.”

Hushovd had told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) earlier this month that he wouldn’t be riding in this year’s Tour de France, where he’s won several stages in years past. He has also decided to drop this weekend’s Norwegian championships but claimed he wasn’t giving up pro cycling immediately.

“I’m still a very strong cyclist, and I would have won many races now, too, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I’m cycling my third season with a virus in my body,” Hushovd said.

He went on to claim that he still intends to win some races, “I will return to my level, and I’ll win some fine races this fall, and then I’ll travel to the world championships, and then I’ll retire.

“Then 15 years as a professional cyclist will be over, along with 27 years in a sport I love just as much today and always will love. As you can understand, this is sad.”

Hushovd put on a brave smile, though, and his colleagues and rivals were quick to credit Hushovd with raising the sport of cycling in Norway to extremely high levels and encouraging them to excel as well. “I probably wouldn’t have become a professional cyclist without Hushovd,” Alexander Kristoff, who ranks as Norway’s top cyclist today, told NRK. Others hailed Hushovd for all his achievements and wished him well.

And Hushovd warned against anyone counting him out just yet: “Cycling in the world championships will be a dignified way to end a long career, but I’m not traveling there (to Spain) as a tourist,” he said with a smile. “I’m going there to cycle fast.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund