I’ve noticed a theme this year in the world of pro-cycling.
I’m not talking about motorbikes colliding with riders or the general and universal love for Peter Sagan. I’m talking about retirement.
Alberto Contador definitely was retiring but now isn’t. Tom Boonen might have done if he won Paris-Roubaix again but he didn’t, so he won’t. And Fabian Cancellara is, and seems pretty happy with his decision. It’s a changing of the guard, but in slow motion.
The elder statesmen are definitely moving aside to let the youngsters get on with it but they’re doing it slowly, in increments, and they’re winning races while they do it just to remind everyone they’ve still got it.
Here in the UK, of course, many of us are delaying our retirements, but we’re doing it to pay off all the debt racked up when the financial institutions all but bankrupted the country a few years ago.
For us it’s cruel and unfair, but for those lucky cyclists it’s fun, and they get to do it on their own terms.
To make matters worse (in pro-cycling, not the real world) Matt Hayman only went and won Paris-Roubaix at the age of 37, as a gentle reminder to the youngsters. And he beat 35 year old Boonen in the sprint, so there’s life in that old dog too. It was only Cancellara who looked his age at Roubaix, crashing two or three times on the cobbles, and then once in the velodrome after the finish just for good measure.
In the picture of him sliding on his backside instead of completing his lap of honour the look on his face says: ‘oh for f#*k’s sake…what am I doing!’
Away from the rabble of the cobbles Contador clearly enjoyed his win in the Basque country, and decided that the chance to wear a funny hat on a podium in front of a large crowd is not something you just chuck away on a whim. In what other walk of life can you get away with that?
So Contador will ride on.
But when they do finally go, what kind of retirees will they be?
They might go down the Jens Voigt route of being a professional maker of public appearances and general ubiquitous social media presence; apparently still the busiest man in the world despite no longer riding a bike for a living.
Maybe they’ll take a leaf out of David Millar’s book and dabble at everything; writing books, designing cycling kit, leading luxury guided cycling holidays, coaching, making TV appearances…?
Or perhaps, if they really can’t forgo the chance to stand on the podium at the end of bike races, they could become the new Bernard Hinualt. You give out the medals, pass round the champagne, and remove any threatening looking interlopers with a headlock like a doorman outside a city centre Wetherspoons on a Saturday night.
It looks like fun.
It’s either that or move to Monaco and live tax free in the sunshine for a few years to consider your options.