Denis Menchov, winner of the 2009 Giro d’Italia and the 2005 and 2007 editions of the Vuelta a Espana, has announced his retirement from professional cycling with immediate effect.
The Russian, aged 35, riding since 2012 with Katiusha and prior to that Rabobank, then Geox-TMC, had been expected to continue riding until at least the end of the current season, but says that missing the Giro d’Italia – his main goal for 2013 – due to a knee injury is the chief reason for his decision to call it a day now.
The first of Menchov's Vuelta victories came in 2005 after race winner Roberto Heras of Liberty Seguros was stripped of the title after testing positive for EPO.
Last December, Spain's Supreme Court found in favour of Heras, who had claimed that his samples had been wrongly stored and mishandled. It was expected at the time that he would be reinstated as winner, although to date that has not happened.
However, Menchov himself has been dogged by allegations of doping in recent months, which is bound to fuel speculation about the real reason for his retirement.
In the wake of the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s publication of its Reasoned Decision in the Lance Armstrong case, French sports daily L’Equipe claimed he was one of the riders singled out by Levi Leipheimer as a client of banned doctor Michele Ferrari.
The newspaper said in December that it was Menchov’s presence within the Katusha team that had led to it being refused a WorldTour licence for the 2013 season, a decision it subsequently successfully appealed at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport has also linked Menchov to Ferrari in connection with the ongoing investigation being conducted by magistrates operating out of Padua.
Meanwhile Menchov’s former Rabobank team mate Michael Rasmussen said in March that the Russian, along with Michael Boogerd and Thomas Dekker – both of whom have subsequently made confessions – was among riders who were part of organised doping at the Dutch team during the middle of the last decade.
There has also been speculation that Menchov may be the former Grand Tour winner whom the anonymous professional rider who blogs as The Secret Pro on the Australian website Cycling Tips said was the subject of gossip in the peloton due to his being “about to be taken down for a biological passport irregularity.”
Writing earlier this month, the Secret Pro added: “I can’t say who it is but when the news breaks you’ll know who I’m talking about.”
The claim ignited speculation on Twitter and elsewhere as to the identity of the rider in question, and inevitably given the timing of Menchov’s announcement, some will be putting two and two together.
While doubts have been cast on whether The Secret Pro is a real person – notably by blogger Saddleblaze, writing on Cyclismas – Wade Wallace of Cycling Tips insists the ghostwritten column is exactly what it purports to be.
As for the identity of the former Grand Tour winner, Wallace says: “If the suggestions are proven to be true the UCI will announce the violation through its official channels; it’s not up to us to do that.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.