Former Giro d'Italia winner Tom Dumoulin announced on Saturday that, at the age of 30, he was taking a break from cycling.
The Jumbo Visma rider, winner of the Giro in 2017 and runner up in the 2018 Tour de France, said in an interview on the team website that those results had made him "Tom Dumoulin the great Dutch cyclist" and he had been struggling "with the pressure that comes with it, the expectations".
"It's as if a backpack of 100 kilos has been lifted off my shoulders," he said. "It feels good."
An injury and the coronavirus shutdown meant Dumoulin had gone 400 days without competing before cycling resumed late last summer. He finished seventh in the Tour de France, riding essentially as a domestique for eventual runner-up Primoz Roglic.
As a professional cyclist, he said, "you're on an express train to the next training camp, to the next race, to the next objectives".
"I really need to get off and think on the platform. Maybe I will catch the same train again in two months. Maybe I'll catch a completely different train."
He said that after attending team training camps this winter he could not "flick the switch" and decided that "stumbling on, ending up 12th in the Tour and fifth in the Olympics would not help".
"I'm going to talk a lot with people, think a lot, walk my dog and try to find out what I want as a person, on the bike, and what I want to do with my life."