10/09/2014 10:09 EDT | Updated 12/09/2014 05:59 EST

Former Tour de France winner Andy Schleck retires from cycling following knee injury

BRUSSELS - Former Tour de France winner Andy Schleck retired from cycling on Thursday, three months after crashing and pulling out of cycling's premier event with a knee injury.

At 29, the one-time prodigy from Luxembourg is hanging up his bike at an age when many multi-stage racers are still in their prime. And even the absolute highlight of his career, winning the 2010 Tour, was imperfect because he only earned it two years later when Alberto Contador was disqualified for doping.

At first, he said he found no joy in winning it after the fact, but on Thursday he was happy to embrace the victory.

"It is a good memory because I won that tour and I deserve it," Schleck said.

In 2011, he seemed poised to win the Tour in real time, only to lose it during the final time trial on the penultimate day to Australian rival Cadel Evans.

Schleck showed exceptional talent from an early age but even his sizable accomplishments, including two Tour runner-up finishes and victory in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classic, left him open to criticism that he did not do enough with his career because of a lack of total dedication.

"My career was full with a lot of success — but also a lot of missed success," Schleck said. "If you fly high you fall down, deep. But I always stood up."

Faced with a mangled knee, he said, "now I cannot stand up."

With his older brother Frank, Andy put Luxembourg on the cycling map, as the two often combined efforts in France's mountains to challenge the best riders over the toughest stages.

"We spent great time together on the bike... you know memories are proud," Frank tweeted.

Over the past two years, though, Andy's career went downhill through a series of mishaps. In the last preparatory event for the 2012 Tour, he crashed in the Dauphine race and injured his spine. He missed the race where he was among the top favourites and even had to skip the London Olympics.

This season, in a year marred by bad crashes throughout the peloton, Schleck did not escape misfortune. He collided with a spectator on the side of the road in London during the third stage of the Tour and had to withdraw. He hurt knee ligaments, cartilage and his meniscus.

By that time, he had had to abandon so many races that he became known as "Abandy" Schleck.

"There is nothing more we can do," Schleck said.


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