Pollen causes greatest mountain biker in history to retire

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France’s Julien Absalon, the most decorated mountain biker in history and the only one with two Olympic titles, is retiring at age 37 in large part due to a pollen allergy, according to L’Equipe.

“I’ve been suffering from allergies to pollen in the south of France for the past three years, mostly at the start of the season,” Absalon said, according to an Agence France-Presse translation. “The doctor told me it would only get worse.”

Regarding taking medication to combat the allergy, possibly requesting a therapeutic use exemption for otherwise prohibited substances, Absalon said, “I don’t like to take too many medicines,” according to the report.

Absalon earned Olympic gold in 2004 (when his wife fainted from the heat at the race) and 2008 (dominating to win the two-hour event by more than one minute). He abandoned after a first-lap puncture in 2012, then ended his Olympic career in eighth place in Rio.

Absalon also won four straight world titles from 2004 through 2007, plus a fifth in 2014. He tacked on a seventh World Cup season title in 2016. Absalon said before the Rio Games he would retire that year, but he continued competing.

Absalon dropped out of the top five in the World Cup overall standings last season and was 41st in the only event so far this year.

Absalon said he will devote his time to managing a professional cycling team that he launched earlier this season, according to AFP.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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