Caleb Fairly put his Giant – Alpecin kit on for the final time Sunday at the Tour of California. The 29-year-old American announced a week ago that the race would be his last, but he won’t be leaving cycling for good.
“I had the chance to stop in California with my family, and in the United States, and I couldn’t pass that up,” Fairly said of his decision to end his career in May. “My head just wasn’t in it, and I haven’t been as motivated.
“It’s hard to leave, but it feels good,” Fairly said. The fact that it’s difficult to retire is a good sign; “it means that there are a lot of good memories. I think that if it was easy, then it would mean that it [racing] was miserable, and it wasn’t,” he said.
What’s next for the Giant – Alpecin rider? “My wife is due the 28th, so we’re going to sit around and wait for that to happen,” he said.
Even after the new arrival, he won’t be sitting around for long. Fairly’s father is the president of the Fairly Group, an insurance group based in Amarillo, Texas, specializing in risk management. The younger Fairly plans to work in a similar capacity as his father, as an agent and insurance representative for cyclists and other athletes. He already has riders lined up for next season and expressed confidence that his family business’s expertise will have a positive impact on the professionalism of cycling.
Fairly raced bikes for 10 years, but his professional career was relatively short. He signed his first pro-level contract in August of 2010, racing as a trainee for Garmin – Transitions. Earlier that year, racing as an amateur, he won the Tour of the Battenkill, beating Floyd Landis by almost two and a half minutes.
After the victory in Battenkill, he placed third in the Giro della Toscana, racing for the Garmin squad. In 2011, he signed with HTC – High Road, where he rode for a year until the team folded before the 2012 season.
Once his team folded, Fairly returned to race in the United States with the Canadian Pro Continental team Spidertech. The following year, 2013, he was back in the WorldTour peloton, racing for Garmin – Sharp, where he spent the next two years. His best result was 11th in the Gran Premio Miguel Indurain in 2014. In 2015, he signed a contract with Giant – Alpecin.
Professional racing is difficult, at times quite miserable. But Fairly has no regrets. “There are moments in a race, or after you finish, where you say ‘I need to block that out’ but when it’s all going away, you relish those moments.”
One such moment for Fairly was this year’s edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April. “It was a brutal, miserable race, but it’s a memory I’ll really cherish and hold on to because it was so epic. The good and the bad parts, they all made it what it [his career] what it was, so I’ll take it all.”
He made friends that he will keep forever, he said, and will miss many of his teammates.
Overall, Fairly feels relief, and some sadness, that his career is coming to an end. There are people he will keep in touch with, teammates and staffers from all of his teams, and not just the folks from Giant, but it’s hard to say goodbye.
“I’ll miss the camaraderie and just hanging out with the guys on the bus before and after the race and during the transfers. Just the camaraderie you have when you’re spending six hours out there climbing 15,000 feet. I’m definitely going to miss that,” he said.
For Fairly, the final week of racing was all about soaking everything in: “The last mountaintop finish, the last time trial. The last moments on the bus, and team breakfasts. I’m enjoying it all and soaking it all in. It’s a little bit of relief and a little bit of sadness.”
Fairly is excited for the next chapter of his life, and gaining the control that cyclists on professional teams give up. “I got tired of people taking care of my life for me. I prefer to remain in control,” he said.
While he is excited, he knows that the transition will be difficult. He also feels confident about his decision to end his career.