Serge Pauwels (CCC Team) has announced his retirement from professional cycling, bringing the curtain down on a career that has spanned 15 years.
The Belgian has struggled with illness in 2020, completing two stage races in February before being sidelined by a viral infection and then myocarditis - inflammation of the heart muscles.
He has now recovered from both but, at 37, and with CCC Team set to disband and be taken over by Circus-Wanty, he has decided to move on from professional racing.
"After tests revealed a suspicion of myocarditis, I’ve spent the last few months resting which has given me the time to decide what I want to do moving forward. I’m happy to have now been given the green light from a health perspective but I’m almost 37-years-old and I feel this is a good moment to call time on my career," Pauwels said.
"If I was in the early years of my career it would be a different story but I can look back now and say that I have achieved everything I wanted to, so I think this is the right time to retire. I have my family to think about and I can’t wait to spend more time with them, as I have been able to since the interruption in the season back in March.
Expanding on Pauwels' condition, CCC Team doctor Max Testa said: "Unfortunately, with very few races left in the season, Serge simply won’t have the time to train and build up to race-ready form before the final Classics or the Vuelta a España. It’s a shame that Serge cannot celebrate his career one last time on the road but the most important thing is that his recovery was successful."
Pauwels began his professional career in 2006 at the Topsport Vlaanderen team, a renowned developer of Belgian talent, before riding for the Cervélo Test Team in 2009. He stepped up to the WorldTour in 2010 as part of the inaugural Team Sky roster and spent two years at the British team before moving to QuickStep for three years. After a four-year spell at the South African MTN/Dimension Data team, Pauwels signed for CCC team on a two-year contract in 2019.
Pauwels' biggest success came at the 2017 Tour de Yorkshire, where he won the final stage and the overall title.
He is technically a stage winner of the 2009 Giro d'Italia, after placing second on stage 15 behind Leonardo Bertagnolli, who was later stripped of his results due to doping offences. However, the moment had been controversial as Pauwels was called back from the break by team leader Carlos Sastre, while he never received a message to say he had become the stage winner.
Pauwels rode 13 Grand Tours during his career, his best result being 13th overall at the 2015 Tour de France.
There will be no final send-off at a race, but no regrets either.
"I’m not sad. I’m not the kind of rider who needs one last lap of the Champs-Elysées or anything like that. I’m more excited to look ahead and see what the future holds," he said.
"I want to thank everyone who has played a role in my career, from my teammates to the staff, and my family and friends. It really has been an unforgettable ride and I feel lucky to be stepping away on my own terms.
"I have had an amazing career spanning the past 15 years and when I look back, I have nothing but good memories of my time as a professional cyclist. There are few people who can say they love their job and cycling has been much more than that for me, it really is a passion and I’m looking forward to staying involved in the cycling industry following my retirement."