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BRUGES, Belgium (VN) — Tony Martin — who once dominated the time trials in the elite men’s peloton — won’t be crashing anymore.
The veteran German rode his last race Wednesday, winning gold in the mixed relay team time trial.
When asked to specify why he chose to retire when he clearly still has gas in the tank, Martin had one simple answer — crashing.
“Two times I was lying in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, full of blood and full of pain, at 36, and the dad of two daughters, you start questioning if it’s really worth it, what are you doing here?” Martin said.
“For me, I just didn’t feel safe in cycling anymore, to be honest.”
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The 36-year-old German won four rainbow stripes against the clock between 2011 and 2016, often times clashing with Fabian Cancellara and the best time trialists of his era.
Martin transitioned into a road captain’s role with Jumbo-Visma, but said he wasn’t enjoying racing under such duress.
Increasing speeds, more treacherous roads laced with traffic furniture, and an ever-younger peloton saw Martin struggling to keep his place at the front of the peloton.
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A high-profile incident in the Tour de France, when he crashed while trying to avoid a fan holding a sign in front of the peloton, was just the final straw in the camel’s back for Martin.
Martin struck the arm of a fan holding a sign, he went down hard on his left, and brought down scores of the peloton with him. He later abandoned what would be his final Tour.
“I’m older, and after a few bad crashes you start thinking more than the young guys, that’s for sure,” he said Wednesday an emotional final press conference.
“Racing wasn’t really fun for me anymore, always thinking about crashes, avoiding crashes,” he said. “I think also in the way the riders ride the race, the way they take more risks, the way that finals start way earlier, that changed, and I really realized that racing doesn’t make this fun anymore than when I started racing.”
Martin’s exit echoes comments made from Irish rider Dan Martin, who said in recent interviews he felt unsafe during races and ended up being “bored” with racing in a sport more dictated by power numbers and strict training schedules.
Both retire this season, with Germany’s Martin bowing out Wednesday with victory in the mixed relay team time trial.
“I still have passion for cycling , training, time trialing, giving 100 per cent, but I had no passion anymore for taking risks in the races, and that’s why I’ll say goodbye now before something really serious happens to me,” he said. “That’s the main reason.”
Martin wanted to go out on a high with the discipline he loves, and said it was increasing dangers in the peloton — and his children waiting at home — that chased him out of the sport.
See the moment when a Tour de France spectator caused a pileup after a German rider, Tony Martin, hit a sign they were holding on the side of the road. https://t.co/WxBXsGW2Jy pic.twitter.com/dJxEjF8Pt1
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 28, 2021