Jalabert to retire in October
By Jeff Jones in Bordeaux
Laurent Jalabert (CSC-Tiscali) has announced his decision to retire at the end of the season, contrary to earlier reports that he would continue through 2003. Jalabert made the announcement at a press conference in Bordeaux velodrome during the first rest day of the Tour de France.
When asked why, he replied, "Last year I told myself that to finish on a high level, with the Tour de France that I had done, would be formidable. Everyone dreams of that. But I still wanted to race. I felt in good form at the beginning of the season. I was full of morale. Then I had some health problems."
"I believe that the decision is wise. I've had a long career and my wish is to stop whilst being a respected and respectable racer. I was used to playing the top roles, I do not see myself in a secondary role. I had the spirit to continue at the beginning of year, I was sincere. But, today, this decision is irrevocable. This is a choice in my life."
"I spoke about it with my wife Sylvie, who never asked me to do it but was very happy with my decision. I spoke about it with my brother Nicolas who was on my side, and three days with Bjarne Riis, my directeur sportif, whom I was anxious for to be at my side for this announcement, because there is no funny business."
Jalabert described himself as "ready to turn the page...not at all depressed, even if the moment is a little hard for me. The bicycle, has been my whole life up to now. I would like to rediscover a little more calm in my life but the bicycle always has a big place in my heart."
In future, "I envisage a career as a directeur sportif. But I would like very much to be present at a number of events in the season, the races that everyone dreams of doing."
Jalabert is not sure whether he will remain in Switzerland, or return home to France. "I am very attached to my home but it is true that I have found a balance in Switzerland."
He has few regrets in his very successful career, "I maybe had the potential to win a Tour, I can regret not being the World Champion in Benidorm (1992), but at that moment I was not quite capable. There aren't many regrets."
When asked whether he was motivated for the rest of the Tour, he answered "I don't think I am any less motivated - you saw it in the prologue. My decision was taken at the Midi Libre. I told myself that it was not necessary to regret anything. My aim is to make the sacrifices in the final three months."
In his 14 seasons as a pro, Laurent Jalabert did not consider himself 'unlucky'. "I had some terrible crashes, but in comparison with all the kilometres I rode at all times... It is necessary to have the capacity to come back, rebound, to face the great difficulties when one encounters them. That will serve me well in future."
The future of French cycling is good according to Jalabert, who will leave a big hole when he departs the scene. "There are a lot of French riders with the right qualities, the temperament. I have the impression of discovering my roots when the stars were Fignon, Mottet, Bernard. Just wait a little for the likes of Chavanel, Casar."
Finally at the World Championships in Zolder in October, "I will do the Championships to win them or to help the French team win. If by chance I win, it would be fantastic but that would not change my decision. I would then be the first retired World Champion."
Jalabert is 33 years old, and has won 135 races including a World Time Trial Championship, a Vuelta España, three editions of Paris-Nice and many, many more.