Juan Antonio Flecha, Riding into Retirement

Among the riders hanging up cleats at the end of this season will be the Spanish rider, Juan Antonio Flecha. Flecha is closing out his racing career at the Tour of Bejing this week.

one of my photos of Flecha from this years (2013) Tour of California

Flecha was born in Argentina, but moved to Spain before reaching his teen years, following the death of his father. His professional career began in 2000 when he raced with the Relax-Ruenlabrada team. Stints with iBanesto.com, Fassa Bortolo,Rabobank, Sky and, most recently, Vacansoleil-DCM followed. His breakthrough came in 2003, while racing with iBanesto, when he won the 11th stage of the Tour de France (TdF). 

Flecha's palmares reflect his aggressive, attacking-style of racing, and include five Most Combative Rider jerseys for stages of both the TdF and the Vuelta a Espana. More telling, perhaps, is one of his nicknames - the Spanish Flandrian - which is reflective of his accomplishments in the Spring Classic and semi-Classic races. At the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad alone, he finished 3rd twice, 2nd twice, and won in 2010. Beyond those are the 18 or so (depending on your definition of the category) top-10 finishes during the Spring campaign. Most notable of those were a 2nd and two 3rd place finishes at Paris-Roubaix, 2nd at Ghent Wevelgem, 3rd at the Tour of Flanders, 3rd at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, 3rd at Brabantse Pijl. Other victories came at Zuri-Metzgete in 2004 and Giro del Lazio in 2004, the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (stage 4) in 2005, and at the Circuit Franco-Belge in 2008.

After all the long miles, endless hours, lung-bursting climbs, the saddle-soreness and aching legs, sprinting when all that is left in the tank are fumes, after all that and more, there was always still room for fun. The photo below (as seen on Tumblr) is, I think, indicative of a certain style that Flecha brought to the sport. Upon announcing his retirement from the sport, Flecha noted that he would "exchange the asphalt for the foam of the waves, and the bike for a surfboard, and walk barefoot all day, and be free." Happy retirement indeed.