ritish cyclist Ian Stannard has been forced to retire at the age of 33 because of rheumatoid arthritis.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider was diagnosed with the condition 12 months ago and had continued racing in a bid to overcome the problem.
But on Thursday he admitted he had lost his battle to continue in the professional ranks.
The former British champion was a two-time winner of the prestigious Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, recovering from a broken back to take his second victory in the event.
He also won two stages at the Tour of Britain, and finished third at Paris-Roubaix in 2016.
He joined Team Sky – now Ineos Grenadiers – when it was set up in 2010 and had ridden in 10 Grand Tours in total.
“It’s disappointing to have to stop like this but it is clearly the right decision for my health and my family,” he said.
“We have explored all the options this year to deal with my condition and the team has been there with me every step of the way.
“I started to hope I could manage the problem during lockdown but, as soon as I returned to racing, I knew that my body wouldn’t be able to perform at any level anymore.
“I wanted to keep racing and that competitive fire still burns within me. But I am proud of what I have achieved in the sport and look back at my career with great pride. It’s been a dream come true.”
Ineos Grenadiers boss Sir Dave Brailsford led the tributes to Stannard: “Ian is a rider who gives so much to the race and his team-mates, and we all know that he always leaves it out there on the road.
“He is one of the hardest, grittiest riders there is, whether racing hard on the cobbles of Belgium or pulling on the front at the Tour de France.
“He has been a core part of our team since day one and we will miss him but he can look back proudly on a career that’s captured the true spirit of our sport and thrilled so many British cycling fans.”