Japan's Fumiyuki Beppu has announced he is retiring from professional cycling after a storied career which saw him become the first Japanese to earn a place on the elite-level World Tour.
Now 38 and in his final season with American outfit EF Education-Nippo, Beppu described his struggle to break into the European scene as a "thrilling" period of his life.
One of his best achievements was becoming, alongside Yukiya Arashiro in 2009, the first Japanese to finish a Tour de France, although he also raced the Giro d'Italia four times and the Vuelta a Espana once.
He also took part in the five major one-day Monuments -- Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Il Lombardia, and rode at the Beijing and London Olympics.
"I spent my youth on my dreams and it was all I could do. It was a harsh situation, but it wasn't a pain at all," he wrote in a statement on his personal website.
"It laid the foundation for what we are today. It was a very thrilling and irreplaceable time."
Beppu became Japan's first ever World Tour rider back in 2005 when he joined the Discovery Channel team alongside Lance Armstrong, which at the time had a Japanese sponsor.
"It was astronomical odds for a Japanese rider to become a professional," he said.
The following season he became both road and time-trial champion of Japan and in 2008 won the Asian road title.
"In the future, I would like to make use of my experience to become a (cycling) bridge between Japan and Europe," he wrote on Twitter.
Beppu's brother Hajime is a television cycling commentator while another of his brothers, Takumi, is a cycling team manager.