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"I would have liked to have gone in a different way, or out on my own terms, but I'm lucky to make it out alive," Craig Lewis told Cyclingnews after announcing his retirement

Photo: Sirotti

CHRISTOPHER HORNER

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CRAIG LEWIS

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20.02.2014 @ 21:17 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

On the reverse of the story about the reigning Vuelta a Espana champion finding the team for 2014 in the very last minute, partially thanks to his newly hired as an agent ingenious former team-mate Baden Cooke, there is another one. It is a story about 13 years younger American Craig Lewis, who was forced to retire from cycling in the age of 29 after the Lampre-Merida team decided to sign Horner instead of him no sooner than in January, leaving the younger American without any options to continue his professional career.

 

"I didn't think my career would end so soon," Lewis told Cyclingnews.

 

"I thought I would race into my 30s. But it's probably for the best for a number of reasons. I had been talking with Lampre since October, but I never had a great feeling that they would look after my best interests. When it fell through, I didn't have any other options."

 

Lewis, however, has no regrets about leaving the world of competition.

 

"I would have liked to have gone in a different way, or out on my own terms, but I'm lucky to make it out alive."

 

Suffering from several serious accidents while on a bike, Lewis really means his words. The former HTC-High Road rider was near to death following the crash he experienced in the Tour de Georgia in 2004, when he punctured both lungs, suffered multiple fractures, and has internal bleeding.

 

In 2011 Lewis suffered from another serious crash when he broke his femur while colliding with a road sign just days before his participation in the Giro d’Italia. The American rider has undergone a long recovery period just to acknowledge that his former team, HTC-Columbia, was folding.

 

"When I broke my leg in the Giro, I knew that regardless of how long I could race, I needed an exit strategy. I knew I needed to find something I could be as passionate about as I was for racing. I knew it would be wine-related, because wine embraces the same culture as cycling more than anything else."

 

Lewis returned to professional cycling with Champion System in 2012 when he won his first race, a stage of the Tour de Beauce in June of 2012, but he was stricken by a bad luck again in 2013 as the history repeated itself and his team unexpectedly in 2013.

 

"Nobody saw it coming," Lewis recalls. They gave us a week before the announcement was made public."

 

It was the middle of September, and Lewis had just come off a successful stretch of racing: he had worn the most aggressive rider's jersey in both the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge in his own state of Colorado, but it was still a little late to be looking for teams.

 

"I could have ridden for a domestic team at that point, but I didn't really have any feelers out, I didn't have an agent working for me.

 

"I was happy to have those races be the last of my career."

 

Lewis sees his future in running the company he currently owns, as he used the recreational side of cycling to build his wine import business, Stelvio Selections.

 

"I was just in Italy with my bike, with some producers and friends who ride bikes. Most of my clients in Colorado are either into cycling or enthusiastic about the outdoors, so it helps a lot with connections."

 

"I'm working full time on my business, and it has grown to be bigger than I can even manage by myself. It would be tough to come back to the sport with it taking so much of my time."

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