Former British champion Ian Stannard has been forced to retire because of rheumatoid arthritis.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider was one of the first riders to join the team as Team Sky in 2010 and his biggest wins came in the one-day Omloop Het Nieuwsblad races in 2014 and 2015.
Stannard also helped Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins win five Grand Tours.
The 33-year-old won seven races during his career, including two stages of the Tour of Britain in 2016 and 2018.
The 2012 British road race champion also took a notable third place at Paris-Roubaix in 2016.
“It’s disappointing to have to stop like this but it is clearly the right decision for my health and my family,” Stannard said.
“I started to hope that I could manage the problem during lockdown, but as soon as I returned to racing I knew that my body wouldn’t be able to perform at any level anymore.”
Stannard, who was diagnosed with arthritis 12 months ago had continued to race in 2020.
However, he had appeared only once since the coronavirus-interrupted season resumed in July – withdrawing from the Tour of Poland on stage four.
Ineos Grenadiers team principal Sir Dave Brailsford described the Classics specialist as, “one of the hardest, grittiest riders there is”.
Matt Warwick – cycling writer
It’s not always easy to appreciate the skills and abilities of sportspeople – particularly in the context in cycling.
As Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas received adulation for their collective six Tour de France wins across the past decade, Ineos’ (nee Sky’s) dominance of the sport would not have been possible without having race winners in their ‘engine room’.
Stannard was a key component of the team during the golden period. An unmistakable physical presence in the peloton, he almost looked too big to race bikes – but his body is a perfect match of power to weight to win the flatter, gruelling one-day races.
On Stage three of the 2016 Tour of Britain, on his local roads in Cheshire, Stannard broke away from the peloton with other riders and – instead of working with his rivals to stay ahead to the end – simply burned them off with 40km to go and won the stage on his own, two minutes ahead.
In a sport which often trades on myth, ‘Yogi”s no nonsense charm and unique abilities will be missed.