Fabian Cancellara has said that he is likely to retire from professional cycling when his current contract with Trek Factory Racing expires at the end of the 2016 season.
Speaking in Doha on Thursday evening, Cancellara revealed that his existing three-year contract would probably be his last, and he confirmed that he had no intention of racing into his 40s like his fellow Trek rider Jens Voigt or former teammate Chris Horner.
"I have a three-year contract and then it's over," Cancellara said. "I have a three-year contract and in my opinion it doesn't look like there will be a fourth or fifth year because it will be sixteen years as a professional. I don't feel tired although once in a while I feel tired, and that's normal. That's not going against Jens or Chris Horner but you will not see me riding the bike at their age."
Asked if he would be tempted to extend his career in order to ride as deluxe gregario for a younger rider – as, for instance, Pedro Delgado did with Miguel Indurain – the 32-year-old Cancellara confirmed that it was his intention to bow out at the very top of his game, although he reiterated his belief that he still has three more seasons left at that level.
"I think of course I will stop on the highest level," he said. "In my situation, I can't wait until I'm down here, that's normal. I could stop now and I would not have a problem to find new ambitions, but I would still miss something. I feel like I'm not finished yet with what I want to achieve. There's still some time left, but there's many options after and I'm not scared of that."
Cancellara laughed when it was pointed out that the projected end to his career would coincide with the world championships in Qatar. Incidentally, Cancellara's eternal rival Tom Boonen this week confirmed that his career would continue until the Qatar 2016 Worlds at the very least.
"My agent says in business to look three months is a long time and you look already three months," Cancellara joked. "I'm not looking now to 2016."
The Swiss rider did acknowledge, however, that he has already put some thought into what he will do after he hangs up his wheels, and confirmed that he would look to remain closely involved with professional cycling.
"I want to bring something back to cycling," Cancellara said. "I have a few ambitions to bring cycling back to another level, and this will be the next thing I do.
"I think cycling is now somewhere a political mess with all the new things that are coming. We have still this big mess with the races and the rules. I think I will be a strong opinion-maker afterwards. Now it's difficult because I'm still a rider, because when you talk as a rider you get singled out. But when you finish, you're free with what you want to do."
The precise nature of Cancellara's post-racing role in cycling remains unclear, although it is understood that it is likely to include an involvement with the Tour de Suisse organisation. InfrontRingier, the sports management company which represents Cancellara, will take over the organisation and marketing of the Tour de Suisse from 2015, and is already the official marketing partner of Swiss Cycling.
Cancellara is currently competing at the Tour of Qatar, the second leg of a three-race stint in the Persian Gulf. He admitted that he was tired from nine consecutive days of racing - he also raced the Dubai Tour last week - but was confident that his early-season work would bear fruit by the time the classics come around.
"On the end, I know where I want to reach. I have my datas, we have our things under control," he said, adding: "This not April, this is February and there’s still a long way."