Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hamilton Not Done Yet

Hamilton: Cycling's not done with me yet

By Kirsten Robbins

Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) enjoys
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Tyler Hamilton announced his retirement from professional cycling on Friday, April 17, following an admission to a second positive doping test, which will likely see him effectively banned for life. The reigning US National Champion ends a career which spanned nearly 20 years, during which he climbed atop sport's loftiest podiums before experiencing its lowest lows.

When asked what the future holds, Hamilton said, "I'll take some down time and make sure I'm OK, and then move forward from there. It's a beautiful sport. Cycling's not done with me yet."

After six years of domestique duty with the US Postal Service team, Hamilton left to forge a successful career with Bjarne Riis' CSC team in 2001. During his time with Riis, Hamilton scored high profile victories in the Giro d'Italia, with a stage win and second place overall in 2002. In 2003, he took victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the overall win at Tour de Romandie and a stage in the Tour de France.

In 2004, after making a move to the new Phonak squad, he took gold in the Olympic Games time trial in Athens. However, the following month he tested positive for a homologous blood transfusion. After a lengthy battle, he served a two-year suspension before returning to race in 2007.

Hamilton returned from his suspension in September, 2006. He quickly signed with the Tinkoff Credit Systems team, but was let go from the squad after his name came up in association with the Operación Puerto case. Hamilton was nearly resigned to retirement until Rock Racing's Michael Ball gave him the chance to compete for the American team.

"Michael pulled me out of retirement back them," Hamilton said. "But, I think now is a good time to step away and focus on my issues with depression and my family issues. I need to move forward to the next part of my life the next chapter and I will have many great memories."

His latest doping positive comes after a February 9 out-of-competition control performed by USADA while Hamilton was at his Rock Racing team camp in California. He tested positive for a banned steroid (DHEA). Hamilton decided to make the announcement on Friday.

"I woke up knowing that I'd be talking to a few people to make it official and it really hit home and I am really sad," Hamilton told Cyclingnews. "All careers have to come to an end. I didn't want it to end like this but life throws curve balls and I'm trying to see the reason why this has happened."

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"It's been an incredible ride," Hamilton said of his career. "Cycling gave me an amazing opportunity to be a part of it all. I met so many great people and saw beautiful places. I've had my share of ups and down. It was a bit of a roller coaster but I've always tried to be humble respectful of others. This sport has given me a lot and I'm greatly appreciative of that. I will give back to it because I feel like I owe this sport something."

According to Hamilton, he came close to retirement on several occasions in the last few years, most recently after his victory at the US Pro Championships held in Greenville, South Carolina last September. "After winning that race, such as tight race, I thought maybe that was a good time to step away. I tried to retire a couple of times but, I didn't," he said. "Bike racing was just starting to go good for me in the second part of the year. I started being part of the race and I enjoyed that. It is so hard to hang up the wheels in this sport."

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