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"From the beginning of 2013 I had a conflict with a director and since then I understood that Orica did not want me in the team. I spent the year filling gaps in races where the team did not have a full team or races that were so small...

Photo: GreenEdge




07.01.2014 @ 11:11 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After 11 years in the professional peloton where he has tirelessly worked for great captains like Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, Tomas Vaitkus has ended his career. The Lithuanian had a conflict with his Orica-GreenEDGE team that saw him do little racing in 2013 and he has been unable to find a new team for the coming season.


The difficult situation in cycling has claimed another victim. One of the peloton's strongmen, Lithuanian time trial specialist and former sprinter Tomas Vaitkus has decided to put an end to a career that has lasted for 13 years.


Vaitkus spent his final two years as part of the Orica-GreenEDGE team after several years spent in Johan Bruyneel's team where he had ridden in support of riders like Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong. He had a fine first season with the Australian team, doing the Giro d'Italia and being part of the team that won the team time trial at the Tirreno-Adriatico.


However, things started to unravel at the start of the 2013 when he had a fallout with an unnamed director of the team. This prompted the team to give him a limited racing schedule and he only had 33 race days until ending his season at the GP Montreal on September 15.


"From the beginning of 2013 I had a conflict with a director and since then I understood that Orica did not want me in the team," he told Ciclismo Internacional. "I spent the year filling gaps in races where the team did not have a full team or races that were so small that we didn't even have a full line-up."


With Orica-GreenEDGE giving him few options, Vaitkus sought an alternative path to get in some racing. Asking his national federation to help him, he did the Tour of Azerbaijan and the Baltic Chain Tour as part of the Lithuanian national team.


"They told me that I was not ready but I always did my best for the common good, doing the job from start to finish that nobody else wanted to do," he said. "Then I understood the situation, especially when I sat out the big races that I used to do. I asked the national federation of my country if I could do some races for them to stay in shape and even get a good result to show that I can ride fast and win. I won the last stage of the Tour of Azerbaijan, the national championships and even the national mountain bike championships."


For Vaitkus, the fallout could not have come at a worse time. With five professional teams folding at the end of the season, the off-season has been extremely difficult for many riders, with many being forced into retirement.


Like so many other, Vaitkus's search for a new team has been in vain and he has now accepted his fate.


"I did everything to stay at the top and find a team," he said. "But things are as they are, many teams have already finalized their rosters, many cyclists are unemployed and maybe it is time to think about doing something else."


With his cycling career now over, Vaitkus has started to plan his future. Admitting that he would love to stay in cycling, he also hints that he has plans to enter a different sport: car racing.


"Yes, that is a possibility because car racing was my dream when I was younger," he said. "But at the moment I can't say more than this as I need to organize things and mentally get used to the idea since in my mind and heart I am still a cyclist."


Vaitkus started his career with Landbouwkrediet in 2003 and rode for Ag2r before joining Bruyneel at Discovery Channel in 2007. He followed the Belgian to Astana and Radioshack but returned to Astana for the 2011 season. His final two years were spent as an Orica-GreenEDGE rider.


Vaitkus started his career as a sprinter and time trialist, winning the U23 World Time Trial Championships in 2002. In 2006, he won a stage of the Giro d'Italia from a bunch sprint and he is a multiple winner of the time trial in the Tour of Denmark and a multiple national champion.


His final wins came at this year's Tour of Azerbaijan and at the Lithuanian road race championships.



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