Former Czech road race champion Petr Vakoč has decided to retire from professional cycling at the age of 29 to "focus on new challenges".
The Alpecin-Fenix rider announced that he would be retiring after the Giro del Veneto on Wednesday, October 13 after 10 years in the professional ranks.
Vakoč suffered extremely serious injuries while out on a training rider in South Africa where both he and his then Quick-Step Floors team-mate Laurens De Plus were struck by a lorry on a training camp in 2018.
The crash left Vakoč with several broken vertebrae, meaning he needed to have spinal surgery and also had to learn to walk again. De Plus also suffered broken bones as well as a kidney contusion, though his injuries were not to the same extent as Vakoč suffered.
Vakoč posted the news to his Instagram with the caption: "On Wednesday the Giro del Veneto will be my last race as a pro as I have decided to step back from road cycling and focus on new challenges. Thank you all for making it one unforgettable journey!"
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In his statement in the post he said: "It has been an amazing ride. As a kid, I dreamed about becoming a professional rider and I am immensely grateful to have lived this dream. I have been incredibly lucky to be around truly amazing people and I can say that I have created friendships for life. I have been able to not only ride my bike for a living but also to be a member of two of the most successful teams in the sport. I have experienced both, winning big races myself and playing my part in dozens of team victories."
Vakoč added that riding the Tour de France in 2021 was a very emotional moment for him and to be a part of riding with the yellow jersey in the team was a dream he never thought would happen. His team-mate Mathieu van der Poel took the lead of the Tour after winning stage two of the race.
After the race Vakoč said he realised that the toll of competing was starting to hit his body and even though he wanted to keep racing, he knew that it was time to stop.
"After the injuries sustained in the accident where I was hit by a truck during a training camp in South Africa in January 2018 my goal was not only to fully recover but also to race at the Tour de France again," he continued.
" I was lucky to have the chance to fully recover and then I worked with a relentless determination. Coming back to the highest level of professional cycling is what I truly consider my biggest victory of all."
Vakoč, who has won seven times in his career, looked like he was going to be a real force to be reckoned with on the Ardennes style races after he took Brabantse Pijl in 2016. Sadly, that was his final career win.
Among his other wins were a stage in the Tour of Poland in 2015, a stage in the Tour of Britain in 2015 as well as the national title, and a stage in his home race.
"One chapter is coming to an end but there are plenty of possibilities opening. I will continue riding my bike a lot and perhaps compete off-road. That is where it all started for me many years ago. I will also continue my university studies in psychology and start nutrition consultancy. Areas that I have a huge passion for and which have been incredibly helpful during my career."
Vakoč finished by thanking everyone involved in his recovery and who made his career a reality. His friends, family and the medical staff who he says saved his life and helped in his rehabilitation in South Africa.
As well as thanking all his teams including Alpecin-Fenix and his former squad, Deceuninck - Quick-Step as well as all the fans who have cheered him on his "unforgettable journey".
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