In cycling, the age at which a rider chooses to retire is especially flexible — even those who are competing at the very top level sometimes hang up their wheels earlier than anticipated, whilst others seem to carry on forever… Alejandro Valverde and Davide Rebellin, we are looking at you.
Here are just some of the notable riders who have chosen to retire in 2021.
Fabio Aru attacks on La Planche des Belles Filles at the 2017 Tour de France (Image credit: KT/Tim De Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)
Qhubeka NextHash announced Fabio Aru’s retirement days before his final race — the Vuelta a España. Many were surprised. The 31-year-old had just finished second at the Vuelta a Burgos and after suffering successive tumultuous seasons, Aru's form appeared to be turning.
Even though Aru’s form showed promise of returning to his Grand Tour winning level, he’s stuck to his retirement plans where he aims to spend more time with his family. Aru’s final race is poignant — he won the Vuelta a España in 2015, which is where he eventually concluded his career six years later.
Anna van der Breggen
Anna van der Breggen at the European Championships in 2020. (Image credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix)
Anna van der Breggen’s palmares are seemingly endless. She’s won every edition of La Flèche Wallonne since 2015, the Giro d’Italia Donne four times and the road race and time trial at the World Championships.
See Anna van der Breggen at Rouleur Live.
Van der Breggen steps off the race bike at 31 years old where she looks to build a family. However, she isn’t leaving the cycling world entirely. She’ll step into the team car with SD Worx in 2021, where she’ll work with the talented young squad that features Demi Vollering, Kata Blanka Vas and Niamh Fisher-Black. Discussing her future, Van der Breggen said, "My knowledge is not gone. I can help young girls. That’s something I‘m really looking forward to.”
Tejay van Garderen
When Tejay Van Garderen finished fifth at the Tour de France in 2012 aged just 23, expectations skyrocketed. He matched his fifth place result two years later, but never managed to improve on that position in the seventeen Grand Tours he started throughout his career. Nonetheless, the American won stages at the Giro d’Italia, Volta a Catalunya and Tour de Suisse.
Van Garderen's career concluded at the USA National Championships in June. “I’m extremely proud of everything I accomplished in my career. I know personally how hard I worked to achieve what I’ve achieved, and I know what level I was able to hit. Results aside, I know that I got the best out of myself.”
André Greipel at Paris-Nice in 2018. (Image credit: ASO/Alex BROADWAY)
André Greipel concluded his career on home soil at the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro. 'The Gorilla' crossed the line alone in tenth place, sitting up to celebrate the conclusion to a distinguished career. Ahead, Mark Cavendish won the race, which is apt in many ways. Cavendish and Greipel are two of the greatest sprinters of their generation. Their rivalry began when both riders represented Team Colombia - HTC in the late 2000s.
Greipel won 22 Grand Tour stages in his illustrious career (placing him fifteenth all-time), including 11 at the Tour de France.
Ruth Winder (Photo credit: Zac Williams/SWpix.com)
Despite victories at Brabantse Pijl and the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche this season, Trek-Segafredo’s Ruth Winder has decided to hang up her wheels. Although she admits that she remains one of the stronger riders in the peloton, she stated that she doesn’t want to continue spending so much time competing in Europe.
Winder spoke about her decision in a YouTube video. “I feel like I've been on the verge of making this decision for a few years and just really feel at peace with it now in my heart. I feel really lucky to be on Trek-Segafredo and I feel like I've reached so many of my dreams already but my heart misses home while I'm on the road so much of the year because as an American, or somebody that doesn't live in Europe, you have to sacrifice quite a lot of your life when you're over in Europe racing.”
Winder added, "It's become really clear for me that the universe back at home is the one that's pulling me stronger."
Tony Martin finished sixth in his final individual time trial at the World Championships. (Image credit: Simon Wilkinson - Pool/Getty Images)
The peloton is saying goodbye to a master of the time trial. Alongside Fabian Cancellara, Tony Martin is the only other cyclist to have won the men’s time trial at the World Championships four times. The German won the rainbow jersey in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016. His time-trialling skills helped him to three of his five Tour de France stage victories, whilst he showed his versatility to win two stages with attacks in 2014 and 2015.
Martin cited safety concerns as a major reason for his retirement, “The bad crashes this year have caused me to question whether I am ready to continue to face the risks that our sport involves. I have decided that I do not want to, especially since race safety has not improved despite the many discussions about courses and barriers. Hopefully the cycling world will listen to the plans presented by my team and other teams.”
With stage victory on Sega di Ala at the Giro d’Italia, Dan Martin joined an elite club — a stage winner at all three Grand Tours. Martin already had two stage wins at both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. The Irishman retires as a double monument winner after collecting victories at Liège–Bastogne–Liège in 2013 and Il Lombardia in 2014.
Announcing his retirement, Martin said, “I feel that the time is right to move on as I want to achieve so many other things in life. In some ways, deciding to stop has been challenging and complex; it’s perhaps one of the biggest and most important decisions I’ve made; and in other ways, it’s been easy.”
Martin will retire alongside his cousin, Nico Roche. The Irishman won two stages of the Vuelta a España throughout his career, and finished fifth and sixth in the GC in 2013 and 2010 respectively.
See Nico Roche at Rouleur Live.
“I always thought I would keep racing for as long as possible", said Roche in his retirement announcement. "These riders often said that one morning you will wake up and just know it is time to retire. You will be ready to try something else, have new challenges and new goals. I never believed them until that day arrived for me in August. For the first time in my life I woke up one morning before a race knowing it was time to do something else.”
Jolien d'Hoore wins stage 3 of The Women's Tour at Blenheim Palace (Image credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix)
31-year-old Jolien d’Hoore concluded her career at the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes. The Belgian sprinter has won three stages at the Giro d’Italia Donne and five stages at The Women’s Tour.
D’Hoore will join NXTG Racing in 2022 as the team’s new sports director. In a statement, D’Hoore said, “I think it’s really important that they give young cyclists a chance to develop themselves in a safe environment. I have a lot of experience in cycling and I would like to teach the girls all those things.”
D'Hoore will also work with Cycling Vlaanderen in 2022.
Other Retirements (Men)
William Bonnet (Groupama-FDJ)
Brent Bookwalter (Team BikeExchange)
Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates)
Marcel Sieberg (Bahrain-Victorious)
Nikita Stalnov (Astana-Premier Tech)
Roman Kreuziger (Gazprom - RusVelo)
Manuel Belletti (EOLO-Kometa)
Petr Vakoč (Alpecin-Fenix)
Kenny De Ketele (Sport Vlaanderen)
Matteo Pelucchi (Qhubeka NextHash)
Mitch Docker (EF Education-Nippo)
Julien Duval (AG2R Citroën)
Andreas Schillinger (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Fabio Sabatini (Cofidis)
Philipp Walsleben (Alpecin-Fenix)
Jelle Vanendert (Bingoal Pauwels)
Ben Gastauer (AG2R Citroën)
Eros Capecchi (Bahrain-Victorious)
Frederik Backaert (B&B Hotels)
Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo)
Mickaël Delage (Groupama-FDJ)
Daniel Hoelgaard (Uno-X Pro Cycling)
Kévin Reza (B&B Hotels)
Ludwig De Winter (Intermarché - Wanty)
Sean De Bie (Bingoal Pauwels)
Michał Gołaś (Ineos Grenadiers)
Koen de Kort (Trek-Segafredo)
Moreno Hofland (EF Education-Nippo)
Tomasz Marczyński (Lotto Soudal)
Matthias Frank (AG2R Citroën)
Paul Martens (Jumbo-Visma)
Maarten Wynants (Jumbo-Visma)
Other Retirements (Women)
Kirsten Wild (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling)
Trixi Worrack (Trek-Segafredo)
Karol-Ann Canuel (SD Worx)
Rossella Ratto (Bingoal Casino - Chevalmeire)
Janneke Ensing (Team BikeExchange)
Lucy Kennedy (Team BikeExchange)
Silvia Valsecchi (Bepink)
Maria Vittoria Sperotto (A.R. Monex)
Emma White (Rally Cycling)
Julia Soek (Team DSM)
Dani Christmas (Drops - Le Col)
Sara Penton (Drops - Le Col)
Cover image: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images