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Eisel latest veteran to confirm retirement

The Austrian won a handful of races, including Gent-Wevelgem, but left his mark as an experienced road captain and lead-out man

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Bernhard Eisel, the veteran classics rider and road captain whose career spanned nearly two decades, confirmed his retirement Tuesday.

The 38-year-old Austrian posted a note on Twitter that he was stopping his racing career after 19 seasons, citing health issues and a desire to move on.

“It’s now time to take the next step in my journey,” Eisel said. “In 2018, I suffered a major injury that could well have brought my career to a premature end. Not everyone has the good fortune to retire on their own terms.”

Eisel turned pro in 2001 with Mapei, and rode for such teams as Team Sky, HTC and Dimension Data across the arc of his career. He won 15 times, including the 2010 Gent-Wevelgem, and later emerged as a road captain and one of the key riders in the lead-out train of star sprinter Mark Cavendish.

In the 2018 Tirreno-Adriatico, Eisel struck a team car during stage 5, resulting in a rash of injuries, including facial trauma and a head injury that later required surgery to relieve swelling of the brain. He was sidelined for four months, missing out on what would have been a 13th start at the Tour de France, but returned to racing. In 2019, he finished out his contract with Dimension Data (now NTT Racing) and decided to put a stop to his competitive career.

“Having the opportunity to ride on some of the most prestigious teams, on the biggest stages of them all, has been an incredible privilege,” Eisel wrote. “I cherish the racing memories, including racing the Tour de France 12 times … starting Paris-Roubaix 16 times, and finishing 16 times, is a stat that I am incredibly proud of.”

Eisel used his natural power and brawn to win early in his career, including stages at the Tour de Suisse and Paris-Bourges. His last pro victory was his most important, when he was first across the line at Gent-Wevelgem, finishing ahead of Sep Vanmarcke, Philippe Gilbert and George Hincapie. He emerged as a spring classics specialist, riding in 47 monuments, capped by fifth at the 2006 Paris-Roubaix.

Eisel later emerged as an experienced road captain, and would often help set the pace in the “gruppetto” to assure that the so-called laughing group would safely make the time cut. In 2012, he helped Bradley Wiggins become the first British rider to win the Tour as part of Team Sky. In 2016, he rejoined HTC teammates Cavendish and Mark Renshaw, and helped the British sprinter win four stages in the 2016 Tour.

Eisel joins a rash of veterans who are leaving the sport after the 2019 racing season. With a wave of young riders coming into the peloton, teams are still leaning on experienced riders to provide balance to their rosters. Eisel, however, decided the time was right to turn the page on his professional racing career.

Eisel did not reveal what he plans on doing next, but hinted he will remain active in the sport.

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