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German cycling star Marcel Kittel has announced his immediate retirement from the sport in an interview with magazine Der Spiegel Friday. Kittel then took to his personal website to elaborate on why, at age 31, he is deciding to step away from the sport.
“Recently the thought on this future without cycling has grown, as has the awareness of the sacrifices that such a beautiful but also very difficult sport like cycling brings with it,” Kittel wrote online. “The biggest question of the last few months was: Can I and do I want to continue to make the sacrifices needed to be a world-class athlete? And my answer is: No, I do not want that any more, because I have always found the limitations on a top athlete as an increasing loss of quality of life.”
Kittel split with his Katusha-Alpecin team to take a break from cycling earlier this year, following a rapid decline in form since 2017. In his interview with the German publication, he said he had, “lost all motivation to keep torturing myself on a bike.”
One of the best sprinters in the world at the height of his career, Kittel has 14 Tour de France stage victories to his name, as well as five victories at the Belgian semi-classic Scheldeprijs, and four stages of the Giro d’Italia.
Kittel claimed five stages of the 2017 Tour de France, before abandoning the race due to injuries. That proved to be a turning point in Kittel’s career, and for 2018 he left the Belgian Quick-Step team and moved to Team Katusha-Alpecin, where his career appeared to stall.
Kittel said he felt no trust at the Swiss-based team.
“There was only pressure, pressure, pressure” he said. He parted with Katusha-Alpecin by mutual consent earlier this year, intending to take a temporary break from cycling.
Since then, Kittel said he has come to realize the negative effect cycling had on his life, and decided to give it up for good.
“The sport and the world you live in are defined by pain,” he added. “You don’t have time for family and friends, and then there’s the perpetual tiredness and routine.
“As a cyclist, you are on the road for 200 days of the year. I didn’t want to watch my son grow up via Skype.”