Italy?s Paolo Bettini has announced that he will retire after Sunday?s world championship road race in Varese.
Bettini called a press conference on Saturday evening to announce his decision after a last-ditched attempt to create a new team for 2009 fell part.
?After I won the Olympics 2004, in the last few months and especially in the last week before the world championships, I?ve thought and reflected a lot and reached the conclusion it?s time to end my career,? Bettini said.
?I don?t think there?s a better race to retire after than the world championships, because it?s become my race in recent years.?
?I?ve had a lot from cycling and I think I?ve given something as well. Tomorrow the last number on my back will be number one with the objective of fighting all the emotions and winning the world title.?
Bettini was convinced he will not retire and then make a comeback in a few years time like Lance Armstrong and admitted the breakdown of talks with a potential new sponsor was only partially the reason why he has decided to quit.
?There have been a few projects and a lot of talks but to carry on I needed real motivation and the truth is I probably didn?t find them and so I?ve decided to retire. The collapse of the talks wasn?t a decisive factor. I?ve been thinking about for four since Athens.?
?I?ve been a professional since 1997 and I want to thank Giancarlo Ferretti who was the first pro team manager to believe in me. I?d like to thank all my sponsors and everyone who believed in me. We might have had some problems but there was always a lot of respect. I want to thank Mapei, the biggest and strongest sponsor but also Quick Step.?
Bettini signed off with a phrase that revealed that wants to end his career by winning the world title for a record breaking third time.
?I think that?s enough talking for now. I?ve got to go back to my hotel because I?ve got to win world title tomorrow.?
During his 11-year professional career, Bettini emerged from the role of Michele Bartoli?s domestique to become the most successful classics rider of his generation. His aggressive style, tactical acumen and fast sprint finish meant he won Liege-Bastogne-Liege and a string of other classics.
He won his first world title in Salzburg, Austria in 2006 but then his brother died tragically in a car accident. Bettini was going to quit but decided to carry on for his family and won the Tour of Lombardy with an emotional solo attack. He won his second world title in Stuttgart last year, symbolically shooting his critics as he crossed the line after being accused of doping.
Bettini grew up in the Tuscan town of La California and still a large part of the year there despite being a resident in the Monaco tax haven in the south of France. He is married to Monica and his daughter Veronica will celebrate her fifth birthday on Sunday, the day her dad says goodbye to cycling.
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