Due to the consuming nature of life as an athlete, a professional cyclist’s social circle also tend to centre around people working in the field. Not to mention, most of them relocate to hub areas like Manchester, Girona, Nice, or Oudenaarde to easily access training facilities.
Unsurprisingly, then, retirement can come as a shock when you’ve led a life dominated by one thing. Faced with the task of suddenly forging a new identity—the transition to ‘regular’ life can be a tough one. Yet, at the same time, some riders discover a new side of themselves or even find a new way to contribute to the cycling world. Today we’d like to explore the stories of five riders who have all had unique experiences in life after retirement.
Ted King: Rediscovering how much fun you can have on two wheels
A retired American road racing cyclist who last rode for UCI ProTeam Cannondale, King turned professional in 2006 and raced for ten years. Since his retirement in 2015, he still spends plenty of time on his bike but is enjoying the sport very differently these days. Now an eager participant in races like the Dirty Kanza and Leadville 100, King’s new approach is adequately summarised by his beverage of choice—a swap of science-fueled recovery drinks for IPAs.
King isn’t shy about lamenting the difficulties he experienced when training as a professional cyclist. He has described it as an “austere existence with tight margins for diet, regimented intervals, and constant travel from one training camp to the next. You rarely see your friends. Good luck if you have a family.” So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he was happy to have a little more freedom after a decade of pro life.
In his own words, “Don’t get me wrong: I still love cycling, the community, and the atmosphere. Unlike my old road races, where my team managed every detail, [participating in the Leadville 100] this year was a throwback to my amateur racing days, when I had to sort out all my own logistics—a challenge I enjoyed.”
Gracie Elvin: Helping other riders ease into retirement
Gracie Elvin’s career highlights began in 2012, riding for the Faren-Honda Italian team, with whom she won the road race title at the Oceania Championships and took silver in the time trial. Moving to Mitchelton-Scott, the Australian rider proved consistent over the next few years and in 2017, she scored second place at the Tour of Flanders. By 2020, though, Elvin had had enough of life on the road and announced that she would retire at the end of the season.
These days, she’s a vital member of the women’s riders’ union, The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA), which recently launched a mentorship program to help cyclists transition into post-pro life. “We’re seeing a lot of athletes struggle with transition across all different sports,” Elvin told VeloNews. “Some riders kind of just disappear after they’ve retired, and sometimes it’s very rational reasons, because they’ve started a family, or they actually don’t want to be involved in this sport anymore.”
Of course, she is uniquely well-positioned to offer support, as learning how to live without constant goals to drive her hasn’t been an uncomplicated process for Elvin, either. She credits family support, her work with TCA, and a university degree with helping her make the transition. Nevertheless, she has been open about the fact that it was still a massive step into the unknown, which is one of the reasons she is so dedicated to keeping the program going.
David Millar: Cyclist turned fashion designer
A retired professional road racing cyclist, David Millar rode for Cofidis from 1997 to 2004 and Garmin-Sharp from 2008 to 2014. He has won four stages of the Tour de France, five of the Vuelta a España and one stage of the Giro d’Italia.
Impressive palmares, to be sure, but retirement has led him to activities that have expanded his interest beyond the bike. After leaving the peloton, the Scottsman decided to revisit some of his pre-racing interests. Design became his focus, and he is now actively involved with fashioning and commercialising a clothing range.
Although he’s thriving now, he explains that the transition wasn’t easy, especially regarding family life, “The first year was really hard. You spend your whole life being dictated by season, by months, by weeks since when you were a teenager. I had to get used to the routine of home life as my family had got used to me being on the road a lot of the time, so it felt like I had to fit into my wife’s house and get used to her system.”
Lucy van der Haar: Off the bike and into the nail salon
Having captured two world crowns and a title at a UCI stage race, Lucy van der Haar had accomplished a lot on her bike when she decided to retire at the age of 26. The Briton announced in 2020 that the current season would be her final ride as a pro, completing the last two years with Hitec Products-Birk.
She also closed off her career in impressive fashion by winning the overall title and the points classification at the inaugural Dubai Women’s Tour. She had won stage 1 and briefly held the leader’s jersey before reclaiming it on the final day.
Nevertheless, she craved a different kind of stability, and she was eager to start a family with her husband, pro cyclist Lars van der Haar. These days, she runs her own salon in the Netherlands and cares for the couple’s young child. Of course, she still gets out on her cyclo-cross bike occasionally and does some motor-pacing for the hubs.
Daniel Lloyd: Asking us all to remember that it’s not always easy
Despite the seamless transition that some riders seem able to make, the change of pace can also have seriously adverse consequences for some riders. Retired professional road racing cyclist, Daniel Lloyd, was just 13 years old when he started competing. Lloyd was active in the professional peloton from 2001 – 2012, with his most successful years coming between 2006 – 2009. Although he has now become a successful sports broadcaster, Lloyd has also been open about the fact that retirement was initially very challenging, as he worried about how to keep himself relevant after cycling.
In a Twitter thread that resonated with pros and fans alike, Lloyd laid bare some of what makes this transition such a problematic time, “Every pro cyclist has to do something after cycling. A select few can live off their name. The rest have to do something else, within the sport or outside it,” he tweeted.
He acknowledged that, even after having a successful career, people tend to forget about people unless they have done something extraordinary. “I always think of those riders, as it’s a hard transition. They’ve all done something many would love to do, but that doesn’t make what comes after any easier.”
“It’s the loss of goals. Your whole life is mapped out as a cyclist. When it’s finished, it can feel like a chasm in front of you.” Llyod replied when asked what the most challenging aspect was.
Lloyd’s reflection reminds us that, at the end of the day, even our favourite pros are people like us who face their own challenges, both on and off the bike. Cycling can be a liberating and empowering tool for many, but even those of us with less competitive relationships to our bike struggle to keep the relationship healthy at times. Here’s to hoping that through organisations like The Cyclists’ Alliance and others, we continue to find ways to make the cycling community a positive place for everyone who participates.