The 2021 pro cycling season is all but done and so are some of the sport’s biggest names.
Dan Martin rode his last professional race at Il Lombardia on Saturday, joining a list of heavy-hitting riders that have decided to hang up their race wheels for good.
Whether due to fears over safety or the inevitable burnout after decades in the saddle, André Greipel, Tejay van Garderen, Fabio Aru, and Tony Martin are among the riders that have pinned a race number for one last time.
So who are we waving goodbye to and what are they up to next?
André Greipel (39)
Palmarès: 11x Tour de France stages, 7x Giro d’Italia stages , 4x Vuelta a España stages, 2x GC at Tour Down Under
What next? Something else in cycling TBA
Sprint supremo André Greipel locked horns with the world’s best sprinters through the last decade. Grand tours for the best part of a decade were highlighted by Greipel’s battles with the likes of Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel, and it was often the German who proved fastest.
The softly-spoken German didn’t capture media attention in the way that Cavendish did, but Greipel’s relentless consistency made him just as successful.
With a staggering 158 victories to his name – two more than Cavendish – the German will leave a huge “Gorilla” shaped hole in the world of pro cycling, even if his most recent years have been more about captaincy and mentorship than podiums and trophies.
Dan Martin (35)
Palmarès: Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Il Lombardia, 2x Tour de France stages, 2x Vuelta a España stages, 1x Giro d’Italia stage, 4th on GC at Vuelta, 6th on GC at Tour
What next? Business management and investment with his own Rubix Ventures project
If there was attacking to be had, Dan Martin was there. Martin may not have scored the number of wins enjoyed by the likes of Alejandro Valverde, but the Irishman was a perennial contender in the hilly classics after his breakthrough 2013 season.
Not content with one-day racing, Martin was always on the fringes of GC greatness when not focused on the classics. Despite scoring a handful of top-10s through the three-week races, Martin’s ever-aggressive approach never quite landed him a podium at a grand tour.
After citing a lost love for the sport, Martin’s racing legacy will likely be forever intertwined with the classics, and of course, that Panda that chased him to Liège victory.
Fabio Aru, 31
Palmarès: GC at Vuelta a España, 3x Giro Italia stages, 2x Vuelta a España stages, 1x Tour de France stage, 2nd and 3rd on GC at Giro
What next? Family life / TBA
Fabio Aru blazed bright before seeing his flame snuffed out by injuries and illnesses.
The Sardinian stormed the GC scene early in his career with a series of climbing conquests and an array of agonized pain faces, and his Vuelta a España victory when aged just 25 set expectations high. However, Aru’s promise went unfulfilled through a series of fallow years as he struggled with iliac artery problems and Epstein-Barr virus.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve done, but being a stubborn man I would have liked to do so much more,” he wrote when he announced his retirement.
Aru could have won more, but he sure won enough to make a lasting impression.
Tejay Van Garderen, 33
Palmarès: 2x GC at USA Pro Challenge, GC Tour of Calfirnia, 1x Giro d’Italia stage, 2x 5th on GC at Tour de France
What next? Sport director, EF Education-Nippo
Tejay van Garderen set US hopes ablaze with his two top-5 finishes at the Tour de France. Then in his early 20s, Van Garderen’s breakout 2012 and 2013 seasons while riding with BMC Racing saw him dominate in the States and repeatedly come close in Europe.
The Washingtonian became a cornerstone of the powerful BMC squad, and he soon rose to become one of the most decorated American road cyclists ever. The resultant weight of expectation and a series of racing setbacks saw Van Garderen fade from the limelight in later years, but his role as road captain with EF Education-Nippo was the type of invaluable work that doesn’t make the headlines.
He will now put his 14 years of experience to use from the director’s chair. Van Garderen has taken on a position as sport director at EF Education-Nippo.
“When I was facing my own cycling mortality, I realized I’m still not done with the sport,” he said. “I want to stay involved, I want to stay connected, I want to be with the guys and help in any way I can and if I can’t help with my legs anymore, then I want to help with my mind and my experience.”
Tony Martin, 36
Palmarès: 4x ITT world champion, 10x ITT national champion, 5x Tour de France stages, 2x Vuelta a España stages
What next? TBA
The time trialist of his generation? Quite possibly.
Tony Martin was an unstoppable force against the clock for much of the last decade, winning four time world championships in six years while amassing a huge haul of grand tour TT victories.
Although the rise of Rohan Dennis and Filippo Ganna edged Martin out of the rainbow jersey in recent years, “the panzerwagon” was still able to put his huge German engine to good use towing the grand tour peloton through thousands of kilometers on behalf of Primož Roglič.
A series of terrible crashes through 2021 saw Martin decide it was time to hang up his disc wheels, but his last season wasn’t all bad – he finished sixth at the TT worlds and won the mixed relay TT world title in his final two races.
Nicholas Roche, 37
Palmarès: 2x Vuelta a España stages, 5th and 6th on GC at Vuelta
What next? Consultant with Trinity Sport rider agency, working with the likes of Tom Pidcock, Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates
As the son of Tour de France stage winner Stphen Roche and elder cousin of Dan Martin, it was inevitable that Nicholas Roche would be good at cycling. The Irishman harvested a swathe of marquee stage wins and grand tour successes through his early career before becoming a domestique-de-luxe for the likes of Alberto Contador and Chris Froome.
Although Roche’s strike-rate declined in his later years, he never stopped trying, and became a shoo-in for riding into the break on the toughest grand tour stages.
Always looking to challenge himself, Roche will put his years as road captain and mentor for younger team members to use in his position at Trinity Sports Management.
Mitch Docker, 35
Palmarès: 6th at Gent-Wevegem, 15th at Paris-Roubaix
What next? Podcasting, growing mullets, TBA
He’s not got the biggest palmarès in the peloton, but Mitch Docker made up for it in other ways. The Aussie was one of the easiest riders to pick out of the bunch thanks to his flowing mullet haircut and bushy ‘tache, and has developed his own popular podcast series, “Life in the Peloton.”
As a career-long fan of Paris-Roubaix, Docker closed out his career at the mud-splattered Paris-Roubaix this month – an experience that will no doubt give him podcast-fodder for years to come. Although Docker is now “out” of the peloton, he has confirmed that “Life in the Peloton” will live on some time yet.
Kévin Reza, 33
Palmarès: 2x 3rd on stage at Vuelta a España
What next? TBA
Perhaps better known for his role as a leading voice in the sport’s struggle for racial equality than for his results, Kévin Reza will leave a lasting legacy on pro cycling.
After actively speaking out against racism through his career and becoming even louder through the Black Lives Matter movement last year, Reza eventually decided that the stress in the peloton and the constant fear of crashes had become too much for him.
Kiel Reijnen, 35
Palmarès: 2x USA Pro Challenge stages, 2x Tour of Utah stages
What next? Graveling
Kiel Reijnen found his feet on the road but left his heart in the gravel. The Washingtonian was a stalwart of the US scent at the start of his career and enjoyed some of his best years while racing with United Health Care through 2015.
Reijnen’s step up to the WorldTour with Trek-Segafredo coincided with the rise of the gravel scene, and ironically, it was on the stones where he seemed to be most at home. After dabbling with gravel riding at two Unbound Gravel races, Reijnen has followed in the footsteps of his former teammate and VeloNews columnist Peter Stetina by launch his own full-time gravel racing campaign.
“I’m not here to change gravel or to put my stamp on it,” he said of his switch to the rough stuff. “I just want to be enthusiastic about it and make other people enthusiastic about it.”
Also read: Reijnen swaps road for gravel
Other notable retirees: Michael Golas, Marcel Sieberg, Mathias Frank, Moreno Hofland, Bert de Backer. Frederik Backaert has called it quits to help out on his parents’ farm in Michelbeke, while Tomasz Marczynski has hung up his wheels to pursue his interest in writing and organizing cycling events.
Who hasn’t retired?
Not all the old guys have given up the ghost just yet. Here are the three illustrious legends who just keep on riding, no matter how many grey hairs they’ve got.
Alejandro Valverde: 41 years young, Valverde is still fast as ever, as he proved by finishing 5th at Il Lombardia this weekend. The Spaniard has pushed back retirement at least one more year, and don’t bet against him bagging a few more wins before he’s done.
Philippe Gilbert: “Phil Gil” just keeps going. The Belgian classics supremo will retire at the close of 2022, giving him one more year to try to capture the elusive Milano-Sanremo victory that will give him a haul of all five monuments.
Vincenzo Nibali: “The shark” keeps swimming. The 36-year-old Sicilian returns to his old hunting ground at Astana next year as he rejoins the team that helped him bag two Giro d’Italia victories and the Tour’s yellow jersey.