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DENVER, Colorado (VN) — As the 2014 domestic race calendar draws to a close, several familiar names on the domestic road racing circuit are closing out their professional racing careers.
Americans Alex Candelario, Jeff Louder, and Matt Cooke, as well as Australian Ben Day, are retiring from the pro peloton and moving on to other endeavors.
Candelario (Optum-Kelly Benefits), a pro since joining Prime Alliance in 2002, registered several top-10 finishes at marquee events races, such as second at the 2008 national criterium championship, second at the 2010 U.S. national road championship, and fifth at the 2008 Philadelphia International Championship.
Though he lives in Bend, Oregon, Candelario closed a loop, in a sense, at the start of the final stage of the Pro Challenge in Boulder, where he trained for many years and also attended college — he was the winner of the 1998 collegiate cyclocross championship and also the 1999 collegiate road champion, racing for the University of Colorado.
“It’s kind of coming full circle,” Candelario said in Boulder. “I started racing here, and this is my last domestic race. It’s been a long career. A lot of people helped me out. I love Colorado. I love the racing here. I’m going to miss it a lot.”
Candelario, 39, said too much time away from his family had been the primary driver that led to his decision to retire. He and his wife, who is from Hawaii, will be launching a cycling tour company, Big Island Bike Tours, on the Big Island in November.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and it’s just been too much time away from my family,” he said. “I really wanted to put my efforts into something else now. I love riding bikes, but it’s been too much time traveling.”
Candelario’s final race with Optum will be the Tour of Alberta, held September 2-7.
Day’s final race was the USA Pro Challenge. The 2003 Australian national time trial champion, Day, 35, won a road stage at the 2004 Tour Down Under, ahead of Aussie stars Robbie McEwen and Baden Cooke. He began racing in North America in 2007, with Navigators Insurance, and went on to notch overall wins at the Tour de Beauce, in 2007 and 2010, as well as at the 2010 Redlands Bicycle Classic and San Dimas stage races.
Day also rode for Toyota-United and Fly V Australia in the U.S.; the final three years of his career were spent with the UnitedHealthcare squad.
Day, who runs a coaching business called Day By Day, met with the media following the stage 6 Vail time trial at the Pro Challenge — a course where he once held the record, 25:48, set at the 2008 Teva Games. Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) smashed that record on Saturday, riding a 24:26, assisted by a strong tailwind.
“I think for me, the toughest part of cycling is stability,” Day said. “You can have everything moving smoothly and make a life out of it and then you get kicked in the teeth and you just have to pick yourself up and start over again. It’s not a job, it’s a life. We put absolutely everything into it. You can’t compare it to a normal nine to five job. Cycling defines who we are and it’s normally not always a healthy balance, but you have to give it 110 percent all the time. I’ve been really appreciative of my team over my career. It’s been a great final few years for me.”
A video of Day discussing his decision to retire can be found here.
A pro since 2000, Louder, 37, spent the first three years of his career with the Belgian Landbouwkredit team before returning to the USA. He spent three years with Navigators Insurance and two years with Health Net-Maxxis before a four-year stint with BMC Racing, from 2008-2012. His career highlights included overall wins at the 2008 Tour of Utah and the 2009 Redlands Bicycle Classic, and third overall at the 2005 Tour de Beauce. He stood on the overall podium at the Tour of Utah — a home race for the Salt Lake City resident — on three occasions. Like Day, the final three years of Louder’s career were spent with the UnitedHealthcare squad.
“I’d like to be known as a guy who worked hard and tried to do his best as an athlete, and as a good teammate,” Louder said. “I love this sport, I’ve loved it since I was a 13-year-old kid riding my mountain bike, and it’s been my passion since then. Hopefully I can pass on to the young guys a hard work ethic, and an ability to pursue the sport on a pure level and race well.”
Louder’s final race will be the U.S. national criterium championship, held September 6.
Day and Louder were both part of UnitedHealthcare squad at the Pro Challenge that brought teammate Kiel Reijnen to a stage victory (and leader’s jersey) on stage 1, in Aspen, a second-place stage finish on stage 7, in Denver, and the green points jersey. Reijnen was on the verge of tears in Denver, upset that he had been unable to deliver the win as a parting gift to his teammates.
The KOM winner of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge, Cooke retired quietly, announcing via Twitter on Monday that the Pro Challenge had been his final race.
A former triathlete, Cooke, 35, won the national elite road championship in 2006, earning him a spot at Navigators Insurance in 2007. During his pro career, he won the Mont Mégantic climbing stage of the 2012 Tour de Beauce, finishing that race fifth overall, and he also finished fourth overall at the 2013 Tour of the Gila. Cooke nearly saw his career end after his Exergy team imploded in fall of 2012, but he returned the next year with Jamis to take the KOM title at the Pro Challenge in his adopted home state of Colorado.
Cooke’s announcement came the day after the Pro Challenge ended, posting on Twitter, “Hi folks, I have retired from pro cycling as of the last stage of Pro Challenge. Thank you for the support. I wish you all the best.”