Matti Breschel will retire from professional cycling after a career that spanned nearly two decades at the highest level of the sport. He cited an ongoing struggle with psoriatic arthritis as the reason he will not continue racing beyond 2019, according to a press release from his EF Education First team.
"It was a big relief to finally take the decision to retire, because I was struggling a lot to find good form, and the medicine I was taking really knocked me out. I was sleeping for 15 hours a day, it was super tiring, especially for the head," Breschel said.
"For me, it didn't make sense to have a disease like that and keep on going as a professional bike rider. Especially the last two stages of the Giro d'Italia I rode. I was in a lot of pain and I thought to myself, 'If I have to stop the Giro, I have to stop as a professional bike rider,' and that was when I took the final decision on stage 4, but I had been thinking about it a lot between February until May."
Breschel struggled with chronic pain due to psoriatic arthritis since the Spring Classics. In consultation with his team doctor and family physician, he received treatment to help ease the symptoms of his condition to no avail. He abandoned the Giro d'Italia in May and has only competed in the one-day Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic since. The problematic symptoms have persisted, and Breschel decided to retire from the sport to focus on his health.
"He's got a lot of passion," said Charly Wegelius, director at EF Education First. "I saw him in London recently [at the Prudential Ride London-Surrey Classic], and he had hardly slept for two days before the race because he was so excited about it. We know he has a lot of passion, and sometimes people can be a victim of that and not see things for what they are.
"But I think he's tried so hard to deal with the sickness he has and to work through it, but eventually he's just looked at it and said, 'I can't do this anymore', and as sad as that is, having to deal with a sickness, it's at least allowed him a few months for that to settle in his head."
Breschel competed in cycling most of his life but signed his first top-tier contract in 2005 with CSC ProTeam. He spent a total of nine seasons and through the team's transformation to Saxo Bank and then Tinkoff Saxo. That time was only interrupted for the brief two seasons he spent with Rabobank in 2011 and 2012. He spent four seasons at Jonathan Vaughters' program as the team went from Cannondale-Drapac to their most recent sponsors EF Education First. He also spent one season with Astana.
"Matti was great to have on the team," Vaughters said. "He's an intelligent and kind person as well as an incredibly sharp racer. But I'm confident his next chapter will be even more interesting than his last."
Breschel started his career with promising results in the Classics and took his first pro win in a stage at the Danmark Rundt in 2007. He would go on to win nine stages of his home tour during his career. In 2008, he won the Philadelphia International Championships and a stage at the Vuelta a España.
He had a standout season in 2009 where he finished sixth at the Tour of Flanders, ninth at Paris-Roubaix and won the Danish national road race championships. That year, he also won stages at the Tour de Suisse, Volta a Catalunya, Tour de Luxembourg and Post Danmark Rundt. Then in 2010 at the World Championships in Geelong, Australia he took the silver medal.
He won the overall title at the Tour de Luxembourg in 2014 and was fourth at the World Championships later that year. He also competed in the London Olympic Games for Denmark in 2012. Although victories during the later years of his career became few and far between, he moved into a valuable support role on his WorldTour teams, particularly at EF Education First.
"There are a lot of really good memories for me. I'm super satisfied about my whole career and I've been able to see so much of the world and explore it through bike racing. I've been a part of some of the biggest teams in the sport for so long, meeting so many crazy cool people. It has given me a lot of life experience in general," Breschel said.
"Riding on this team, it was a real eye-opener. I have been on some very traditional teams and just the way that Slipstream, Cannondale and EF were and are doing things, it makes a lot of sense. I've been super happy being a part of this team."
Breschel will be competing in his last race in Denmark on Monday, when he will join his family and friends to celebrate the end of his career as he heads into retirement.
"I will love being able to spend more time playing my music, and I would actually really love to learn how to sail," Breschel said about his post-retirement plans. "I live just next to the sea and it would be great to have a small sailing boat and learn how to do it. It's almost the same kind of feeling as a long ride in the mountains, where you just get away from everything."