The professional peloton lost dozens of riders to retirement in 2018, with some hanging up their wheels after long, successful careers, some after years as loyal domestiques, and others stopping even though they have a few good seasons left.
Cyclingnews looks back on five notable retirements from the year.
Damiano Cunego, 37
The 2004 Giro d'Italia champion ended his career rather quietly in June, dropping out of the Italian national championships road race. It wasn't the finale 'Il Piccolo Principe' had hoped for: Damiano Cunego wanted to end his career with one last Giro d'Italia, but his Nippo-Vini Fantini squad was not invited by the race organisers.
"Of course, I've got good memories of the Giro. I won there in 2004, and I've been fourth and fifth there. I've got good memories. This year it could have been important to end my career with that race but, unfortunately, someone didn't give us an invitation. I don't know why. I think it was just a business choice," Cunego told Cyclingnews at the Tour de Suisse.
Cunego's last few years at the Pro Continental level were fairly anonymous, with only a stage win at the Tour of Qinghai Lake in 2017 to his name, but the Italian's latter years should by no means overshadow the sparkling start to his career.
A junior world champion in 1999, Cunego turned professional with Saeco in 2002 and was a key helper for Gilberto Simoni in his victory at the Giro d'Italia the following year. The following season, Cunego took the maglia rosa from Simoni on stage 7 of the 2004 Giro with a stage win in Montevergine. Although he gave up the jersey to Yaroslav Popovych and the Saeco team leadership to Simoni after a 52km time trial, Cunego attacked to regain the jersey on the final climb of stage 16.
Cunego solidified the Giro d'Italia victory with a stage win in Bormio, but would never again hit the heights of a Grand Tour champion – although he won the best young rider classification at the Tour de France in 2006 after finishing fourth at that year's Giro. He subsequently turned his focus to one-day races, winning Il Lombardia three times and the Amstel Gold Race 2008, as well as two stages at the Vuelta a España.
Simon Gerrans, 38
Simon Gerrans announced in August that he would end his career, deciding that "my passion for the sport is not what it used to be". However, he summoned up enough enthusiasm to race one final Tour de France in 2018, being part of BMC Racing Team's winning effort in the team time trial there and at the Tour de Suisse.
The Australian had a successful 15 years in the WorldTour, turning professional with AG2R Prévoyance in 2005 and taking his first win in the Tour de Finistère. He made a name for himself by winning the Herald Sun Tour later that year, then followed that result with his first Tour Down Under in 2006. He went on to win his home tour three more times: in 2012, 2014 and 2016.
Gerrans won his first Grand Tour stage at the 2008 Tour de France, winning from a breakaway into Prato Nevoso. He won again in 2013 in Calvi and, after his Orica-GreenEdge team won the team time trial the next day, Gerrans wore the leader's yellow jersey at the Tour de France for two stages.
In 2012, Gerrans won Milan-San Remo ahead of Fabian Cancellara and Vincenzo Nibali while wearing the Australian champion's jersey. He went on to score another Monument victory in 2014 at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
In his retirement announcement, Gerrans didn't list any of these accomplishments as his favourite memory, instead saying, "When I look back over my racing career, my fondest memories don't come from winning Classics or Grand Tour stages, but the happiness and joy my victories created for the team and the people close to me. I also cherish the times when I was able to contribute to the personal success of my teammates."
Sylvain Chavanel, 39
The retirement of Sylvain Chavanel leaves a hole in the heart of the French professional peloton, which will lose one of its biggest animators now he has hungs up his wheels. Chavanel spent the majority of his career – before and during his WorldTour years – blasting off the front with such ferocity and frequency that he earned the nickname 'The Machine' in the Belgian press.
Unlike some of his showier compatriots, Chavanel had the time trial skills to make his attacks truly dangerous – he was a six-time French time trial champion – and he was awarded the Tour de France 'super-combativity' prize twice in his career.
Until 2008, his forays off the front resulted in only low-hanging fruit like the Circuit de la Sarthe (2005). Everything clicked in 2008, and Chavanel scored wins in the Tour Méditerranéen, Paris-Nice, Dwars door Vlaanderen (in a sprint, no less), Brabantse Pijl (in a more characteristic solo attack) and the Volta a Catalunya. Finally, after many days in the breakaway in the Tour de France, he at last scored his first Grand Tour stage win in Montluçon, where he bested fellow 2018 retiree Jérémy Roy.
With those results under his belt, Chavanel was scooped up by Patrick Lefevere's Quick-Step squad, where he put more emphasis on the Classics. He never quite managed to win a big one, but was second in the 2011 Tour of Flanders to Nick Nuyens, and just missed the Milan-San Remo podium in 2013.
In 2010, Chavanel won stage 2 of the Tour de France in Spa, taking the maillot jaune for a day, and then repeated both feats on stage 7, ending the Tour with another super-combativity prize.
"I'm in a category of riders that don't win that often because you take risks, you try to go from a long way out," Chavanel said of his career. "You play with the peloton and try to stay out there for as long as possible to try to win, but often it doesn't work."
Giorgia Bronzini, 35
Two-time road world champion Giorgia Bronzini ended her storied career with an emphatic victory in the Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta. The Italian is not going far, however, as she will join former sprint rival Ina Teutenberg as a directeur sportif with the new Trek women's team.
Bronzini amassed some 80 victories between the road and the track, winning the points race world title in 2009, numerous stages of La Route de France, the Giro Rosa, the Ladies Tour of Qatar, the Tour of Chongming Island and one-day races like the Liberty Classic, the Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt, and the Ronde van Drenthe.
After success as a junior on the track, Bronzini turned pro on the road in 2003, bouncing between various Italian teams, including the powerful Safi-Pasta Zara squad. She joined Wiggle Honda for a five-year stint in 2013 and closed out her pro career with Cylance this season.
An outspoken, dynamic personality, Bronzini proved herself to be a master of tactics, twice defeating Marianne Vos in her prime.
"For me, it's more important to have a good head or good tactics than [having to use] the body," Bronzini told Cyclingnews.
In addition to being a leader on the bike, Bronzini helped spark a stronger movement towards equity between men's and women's cycling. In 2011, she responded to then-UCI president Pat McQuaid's comments that women's cycling had not developed enough to support a minimum wage, saying that her world champion's jersey was worth as much as men's champion Mark Cavendish's.
Megan Guarnier, 33
The three-time US road champion began her cycling career as a solid domestique but reached her best with the Dutch squad. In 2015, she scored her first major European victory at Strade Bianche, then went on to place third at Flèche Wallonne and third at the Giro Rosa. She ended that year taking third in the UCI Road World Championships on home soil in Richmond behind Lizzie Deignan.
In 2016, Guarnier was the dominant rider on the scene, winning the first edition of the UCI Women's World Tour thanks to podium placings in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Flèche Wallonne, and overall victories in the Amgen Women's Race and in the Giro Rosa.
After struggling with a head injury, and then fracturing her jaw in a crash in 2017, Guarnier returned to the top of the sport winning the Tour de Yorkshire and coming fifth overall in the Giro Rosa, but she decided by the end of the year to return home to pursue a graduate degree in neuroscience.
"I still love the sport, but the sacrifice in being away from my loyal husband and amazing family, along with the physical toll of 11 hard years as a clean athlete, are catching up with me," Guarnier said.