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The Departed: the best eight riders retiring in 2019

A Grand Tour team composed of those hanging up their wheels at the end of the year

Joe Robinson
20 Nov 2019

With every season in professional cycling comes the ending of careers. Retirements of the peloton’s old guard, hanging up their wheels to make space for the next generation below them.

This year’s crop of retirees seems to be a particular vintage as some of cycling’s most loved sons decide to explore their next adventures. Among them are the likes of superstar sprinter Marcel Kittel, cycling hardman Laurens Ten Dam and underrated Flanders supremo Stijn Devolder.

With such talent departing cycling for 2020, Cyclist thought the obvious thing to do would be to create a Grand Tour team of this year’s retiring riders.

If you think we have missed someone out, let us know!

Laurens Ten Dam

The wolfman from the very north of the Netherlands is ending a 17-year career in which he forged a reputation for being one of the toughest men in professional cycling.

Stage 14 of the Tour de France back in 2011, slamming face-first into a ditch on the descent of the Col d’Agnes. A roll of gauze around his nose later, and he was back on his bike finishing just 26 minutes down. Real hard man stuff.

Ten Dam was also a pretty handy bike rider, too, bagging top 10 finishes at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana during his career while also guiding Tom Dumoulin to a Giro d’Italia title.

And if he underperforms on the road, we can always get him to make a team podcast.

Taylor Phinney

When you know you know, you know? Phinney knew that his time as a pro cyclist was up. The drive to continue flogging himself, day in, day out, had faded and the ambitions to ride bikes off-road for fun and focus on his art became too big.

An incredibly talented rider, you cannot help but think that 2015 horror injury stunted what could have been an incredible career of Classics and time trial success. 

Phinney did well to never let that crash get on top of him, always seeing the positives in life. He was also one of the peloton's most erudite and thoughtful riders, a man utterly respected by all.

Svein Tuft

You think Phinney is a hipster? Don’t make Tuft laugh into his self-foraged nettle tea.

The veteran Canadian got into pro bike riding quite late. Before racing bikes for money, Tuft would take his old mountain bike on months-long adventures across the Yukon and British Columbia with his German Shepard dog, Bear. One time, he even got attacked by a wolf.

Likely to now be back in his native Canada, spending time in the forest to meditate, in our Cyclist retired eight he would take the role of the all-knowing, all-seeing road captain of supreme wisdom.

Marcel Kittel

Ivan Drago’s cycling body double called time on his career back in August deciding the struggles of professional cycling, its sacrifices and demands, were beyond what he was willing to still give.

More than just the best hair in the pro peloton, Kittel dominated an era of sprinting in cycling, winning 17 Grand Tour stage, putting the fear of God into Mark Cavendish in the process. I’ll miss Kittel in the pro peloton, he was so cool.

For the Cyclist retired eight, Kittel fronts the team, leading us to a bucketload of victories and millions of pounds in hair product sponsorships.

Mark Renshaw

Behind every great sprinter is a great leadout man and for Kittel, we have the best ever, Mark Renshaw.

The tonic to Cavendish’s gin, Renshaw guided the British sprinter to so many wins I cannot be bothered to count. The Australian was so good at guiding Cavendish, he would quite often finish second in the sprint, such was the daylight to their rivals. See Champs-Elysees finish of 2009 Tour de France for textbook leadout riding.

Renshaw also provided one of the most memorable moments of the past decade when he was ejected from the 2010 Tour de France after headbutting Kiwi leadout rival Julian Dean. Bring your dinner.

Steve Cummings

The latest rider to announce his retirement, Steve Cummings’s career was like a fine cheese, becoming more potent with age.

All the best bits came in his late 30s when he discovered this unbelievable knack of being able to hoodwink pelotons into letting him attack in the final kilometres of a race. In doing so came a 14-month period in which he became almost unrideable on some stages.

Returning back to the Mersey, Cummings will be able to look back on a career that garnered three Grand Tour stages, a Tour of Britain, two national road titles and a Commonwealth Games gold medal. Not bad, not bad at all.

Stijn Devolder

A proper rider, when he was teammates with Lance Armstrong back in 2004/2005, the American claimed Devolder was a future Tour de France winner.

That never happened, but the Kortrijk-born rider did something much bigger in his career. That was winning the 2008 Tour of Flanders while Belgian national champion.

For a Flandrian to win Flanders while in the Belgian tricolour, that’s up there with some of sport’s biggest moments like winning a home football World Cup or a gold medal in a home Olympics. It’s huge.

Devolder won two Flanders titles in total as well as three national road and two time trial titles and the Three Days of De Panne. A hugely underrated rider was Devolder and fully deserving of his place in this team.

Simon Spilak

Let’s assume this fictitious race is in Switzerland because, if so, Simon Spilak is winning it at a canter.

Often labelled the asparagus of cycling due to only ever being in season from April to June, the Slovenian managed only three major wins in his career - the Tour de Suisse (2015, 2017) and Tour de Romandie (2010).

In fact, Spilak was so potent in Switzerland that he managed another 10 Top-10 finishes in both of these races alongside four stages, too.

Notable mentions go to: Daniele Bennati - an incredibly good looking man, who waves farewell in 2019; trendsetter Adam Blythe - who goes to work for CHPT III clothing; the ultra-cool Matti Breschel - who is forced to retire with health problems; the supremely experienced Lars Bak and Huub Duyn - the best name to say in pro cycling.

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