Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Road

2016, the year of the retirees

Dozens of top-level pros are hanging up their cleats at the end of this season. Andrew Hood takes a closer look.

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

The 2016 season will be remembered as the year of the retirees.

Dozens of top-level pros are hanging up the cleats for good. Top among them are Fabian Cancellara, Joaquim Rodríguez, Ryder Hesjedal, and Frank Schleck. Alberto Contador has put off retirement, at least for one season, after signing with Trek – Segafredo.

Is there any particular reason for the recent flood of retirements? Most of the top names insist they are leaving on their terms.

“This is the way I want to leave the sport,” Cancellara said after winning the time trial gold medal in Rio de Janeiro. “I do not want to be one of those pros hanging around too long. I wanted to leave on top.”

Rodriguez echoed those sentiments. After a thrilling, fifth-place finish in the men’s road race in Rio, Rodriguez confirmed the Olympic road race would be his last. No final Vuelta a España. No final Giro di Lombardia.

“I would have liked to have won a medal,” Rodriguez said. “But I am leaving the sport the way I wanted to, racing for the victory, fighting to the very end. That is the way I have raced all of my career.”

Hesjedal won a grand tour in 2012, and despite falling ill in his run for one final Giro d’Italia, decided it was time to call it quits than keep fighting growing headwinds. Schleck, too, decided it was time to call it quits on his terms.

“There is no easy way to say goodbye,” Schleck said. “I wanted to retire at a high level, and still be competitive and fit. I am proud of my career.”

A new generation is certainly staking its claim at the front of the peloton. The famed “Class of 1990” is hitting full maturity, meaning that older pros either must transition to helper roles or take their exit at the top of the sport.

Other big names to leave the peloton at the end of this season include Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Vansummeren, Jerome Coppel, and Jean-Christophe Péraud, who earned France’s best Tour de France result in a generation when he was second in 2014.

Another exiting rider is French veteran Pierrick Fédrigo, who races for the last time at the Bretagne Classic this weekend.

“I won this race in 2008, and this race means a lot to me,” Fédrigo said. “My family, wife and children will be there to watch me race.”

A few riders have already retired, including Michael Rogers, Cameron Meyer, Maarten Tjallingii, Carter Jones, Caleb Fairly, and Yaroslav Popovych. Xabier Zandio and Jesse Sergent are also set to retire this year.