Dani Rowe believes that she has made the right decision to call time on her career at the age of just 28. She had enjoyed arguably her best season to date on the road in 2018, riding for the Waowdeals team - with bronze at the Commonwealth Games and podium places at the Tour de Yorkshire and Women’s Tour - but announced in December that she would retire with immediate effect.
Retirement had not been in her plans at the beginning of the year but took stock after her final race of the season, the World Championships road race. She decided that it was time to hang up her wheels and go out on her own terms.
“It’s not been an easy decision, but I know in my heart it’s the right one. I’m really excited about the next chapter,” Rowe told Cyclingnews. “I feel privileged that I can go out on a high, on my own terms having achieved everything I ever dreamed of achieving on the bike.
“The Commonwealth Games was the last medal that I was really determined to achieve. It was the last medal in a major competition that I had left to get my hands on. I felt like the rest of the season was a bonus, although I think that I exceeded all expectations on the road. I hadn’t really thought about retiring from the sport until after the Worlds.
“I still love it as opposed to thinking ‘I never want to see a bike again, I’m sick of the sight of it.’”
A ten-year career
Rowe’s career has spanned 10 years and two cycling disciplines. After joining Britain’s Olympic Development programme and subsequently being dropped from it, Rowe got another chance in 2010 after a strong performance at the national track championships. She went on to win her first world title in the team pursuit in 2011 and was part of the pursuit squad that won gold at the Olympic Games in London.
“I’m just really proud. I went into that track squad and I was the only person that hadn’t been on the squad at the time. I was invited through good results at the national championships,” explained Rowe. “To then get that far, I just look back on it with major memories and I’m just so lucky that I was able to win a gold medal at a home Olympics as well. Not many people get that opportunity.”
After achieving success on the track, Rowe decided to turn her attention to the road for the 2015 season. However, a serious crash in the winter of 2014 left her with a long and difficult recovery. Rowe crashed when another cyclist hit a pothole and collided with her, resulting in five broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
“Initially, when I was on the ground, I said I never want to ride a bike again but it didn’t take me long. I was probably in hospital a couple of days and I didn’t think twice about going back on the bike again. I knew I wanted to get back on the bike,” Rowe told Cyclingnews.
“Because I really wanted to continue with my cycling career, I didn’t really have a choice. I just took it slowly and built it up from initially being scared to getting back into racing.”
Rowe would get back to racing in April 2015 but her first full road season wouldn’t happen until the following season. There were some strong results to start with, including fourth overall at the Santos Women’s Tour, third at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and 14th at Strade Bianche. However, Rowe had hoped to earn selection for the road team at the Olympic Games in Rio but missed out on a spot. Despite this she was happy with her decision to switch disciplines and enjoyed her move to the road.
“There has been a lot of ups and downs but I’m proud of having the resilience to keep going. It makes it all the sweeter. The victories have been incredible because I have had to go through some hard times along the way,” said Rowe. “I really enjoyed the road. I did quite a lot of road training and racing when I did the track and I did the road before I started the track, so I knew that it was something that I enjoyed. It was another big challenge for me.”
She counts her successes on the road among some of the memories she’ll cherish from her cycling career, alongside her first major title on the track.
“My first world title was a huge moment for me and then a few of the results on the road this year really stand out,” she said.
“The Tour de Yorkshire, the Women’s Tour were big ones and then Commonwealth Games. They’re the ones that really stand out. Also, the Tour of the Reservoir. It is quite a small race in the grand scheme of things but it was my first race back after my bad accident at the end of 2014, and I won it. It was a really big personal achievement after the accident.”
The road ahead
While she has retired from professional racing, she has still been on the bike, though she has been availing of Zwift rather than braving the wet Welsh weather – now that she doesn’t have to. She also took to running, but that was cut short when she suffered a stress fracture in her heel.
Rowe is still planning what exactly her future will hold with plenty of opportunities on the table. She is already spending more time working with her coaching company Rowe and King, and is coaching Drops rider Abby-Mae Parkinson, but the rest is still to be defined.
“I want a break at the moment. I’ve got a few discussions going on but nothing set in stone,” Rowe said. “I really want to get into some media work and the biggest focus, I think, will be to be more involved with our coaching company Rowe and King. That’s something that I will do straight away. That’s my first focus, but I can’t really say what else I’ve got in the pipeline because nothing is set in stone.”