Celebrating the Professional Women Cyclists We Bid Farewell to in 2023

By Megan Flottorp

As the cycling season winds down and the riders prepare for a well-deserved break, we’re taking a moment to celebrate the remarkable women who have decided to step away from their professional cycling careers in 2023. Women’s cycling has undergone a tremendous burst of growth over the last decades — and these athletes have made significant contributions to the sport. Their retirements mark the closing of a meaningful chapter, and today, we’d like to recognise their achievements while shedding light on a few of the challenges that professional women cyclists continue to face.

Jessica Allen (Jayco-AlUla)

Jessica Allen, who turned pro in 2013, recently surprised the cycling community with her retirement announcement. She has yet to confirm her post-retirement plans; however, it is expected that she will continue to contribute to the sport in some capacity. Allen’s journey began with a bang as she claimed the title of junior time trial world champion, surpassing formidable competitors like Elinor Barker and Mieke Kröger. She initially turned professional with the Vienne Futuroscope team in 2013 but took a brief hiatus from UCI racing at the end of that year. In 2016, she made a triumphant return to top-level racing and established herself as one of the most respected domestiques in the peloton.

Rachel Neylan (Cofidis)

Australian cyclist Rachel Neylan, known for her versatility and adaptability, will bid farewell to her professional cycling career after the 2023 season. Her journey began in 2009 in the United States and continued with various UCI teams, with notable stints at Diadora-Pasta Zara and Orica-AIS/Orica-Scott. Throughout her career, Neylan secured four victories, including stage wins at the 2015 Trophée d’Or Féminin and the 2019 Gracia Orlová, as well as victories in the 2016 GP de Plumelec-Morbihan and the pre-UCI status Cadel Road Race.

Her most iconic moment was at the 2012 World Championships, where she finished just 10 seconds behind Marianne Vos. Despite challenges, Neylan’s resurgent 2021 season with Parkhotel Valkenburg led to her current contract with Cofidis. As she concludes her final season, Neylan leaves a lasting legacy of versatility and determination in professional cycling.

Tayler Wiles (Lidl-Trek)

Tayler Wiles, a seasoned professional who turned pro in 2012, made the difficult decision to retire during the middle of the season. Her journey took an unexpected turn over two years ago when she began experiencing health issues. Last season, a diagnosis revealed that she was suffering from iliac artery endofibrosis, leading to surgery. While this condition is not uncommon for cyclists, and often manageable, Wiles continued to struggle with it. She reflected on her contemplation of retirement on Instagram during the summer. However, her physical condition forced her to accelerate those plans. Her final race took place in May at the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas. Wiles can look back on her career with pride, including her notable victory at the 2017 Tour of the Gila. In the latter part of her career, she focused on playing the crucial role of a domestique for Lidl-Trek (formerly Trek-Segafredo).

Tayler Wiles
Wiles at the 2023 Tour Down Under. © Profimedia

Hannah Barnes (Uno-X)

Like Tayler Wiles, Hannah Barnes has chosen to retire due to lingering injuries. While her issues are not tied to a specific injury, she has been grappling with a series of injuries that have taken a toll on her physically and mentally. In a social media post at the end of July, she candidly expressed her struggle in coming to terms with no longer being a competitive part of the race. Throughout her career, Barnes achieved milestones such as becoming the British road race and time trial champion. She was also a part of the 2018 Canyon-SRAM team that secured the world title in the team time trial.

Kim de Baat (Fenix-Deceuninck)

Kim de Baat has decided to retire this year due to physical issues, specifically, overtraining syndrome. She revealed that her mind was unable to keep up with the demands on her body, and recovery would require a significant amount of time. De Baat, originally from the Netherlands but later obtaining Belgian nationality after marriage, turned professional in 2013 with the Boels-Dolmans team (now SD Worx). She initially garnered attention by securing a podium finish at the Dwars Door de Westhoek one-day race, and a third-place finish in the U23 European road race the previous season. While her career may not have fully lived up to the early expectations, De Baat distinguished herself as an outstanding domestique. In a memorable moment, she clinched victory in the road race at the Belgian national championships last year.

Georgia Williams (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB)

Georgia Williams, a four-time New Zealand national time trial champion and a two-time winner in the national road race, has decided to retire at the age of 30. Her impressive career includes a silver medal from the Commonwealth Games road race and a third-place finish at the Tour Down Under this year. Williams initially began her career on the track before transitioning to full-time road racing, where she spent most of her professional career with the Australian Mitchelton-Scott team (now Jayco-AlUla) before moving to EF Education-TIBCO-SVB this year.

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team)

And last, but certainly not least — Annemiek van Vleuten, who is undoubtedly the most renowned and accomplished cyclist on this list. The Dutch rider announced her retirement at the end of the previous season, making this year a memorable farewell tour. Although she couldn’t replicate her remarkable 2022 season, which included winning all three grand tours and numerous other major victories, she leaves the sport on a high note.

Van Vleuten’s influence on women’s cycling over the past decade is undeniable. She took up cycling as a sport during her university years and swiftly rose through the ranks. Her most remarkable achievements came in the latter part of her career, including a dominant Tour de France victory and a second world road race title despite a broken elbow. While Van Vleuten’s post-retirement plans remain unconfirmed, it is safe to assume that she will tackle her next adventure with the same dedication and determination that defined her illustrious cycling career.

The triumphs and tribulations of professional women cyclists

While we celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of these remarkable women in professional cycling, it’s essential to acknowledge that the sport still faces issues that affect the careers of female cyclists. One prominent challenge is the issue of low pay and inadequate support. Many professional women cyclists continue to grapple with financial constraints, making it challenging to sustain a career in the sport and deal with the physical and mental toll it takes. This issue has seen notable improvements in recent years, but it remains a critical concern within the community, and we need to keep talking about it.

Despite these challenges, though, the women mentioned above deserve a lot of credit for the impact they’ve made on the cycling world. Their dedication, talent, and unwavering commitment have not only inspired a new generation of female cyclists but have also propelled the sport forward. As we bid them farewell, we recognise their contributions and look forward to the future of women’s cycling, built upon the legacy they leave behind.