After 13 years racing in the US domestic peloton, Alex Candelario has decided to join Jeff Louder, Ben Day and Matt Cooke among the ranks of the recently retired. The Optum Pro Cycling domestique announced last month that he'll step away from professional racing following Sunday's conclusion of the Tour of Alberta.
“It's been a long career,” Candelario told Cyclingnews this week at the Canadian race. “I've been really lucky and worked with some great people, but it's just time to transition to something else, mostly because of my family. The lifestyle is pretty rough on the family life; it's just a lot of time away from home. I want to focus on them more. We just had our second child, so there's a lot of responsibility to be home.”
Candelario, 39, started his professional career in 2002 with Prime Alliance and rode with the team for two seasons before moving to Jelly Belly in 2004. He rode with Danny Van Haute's UCI Continental team for four years before moving on to Kelly Benefit Strategies team in 2008. Van Haute said Candelario was a good leader when he rode with the team.
“He's a smart guy off the bike and on the bike,” Van Haute said. “And so he was a good leader for us when he was with us. And then we kind of developed him a little bit I guess before he moved on to bigger pastures. But we're still very good friends.”
Candelario has been with former teammate Jonas Carney's Kelly program, which switched sponsorship to Optum in 2012, over the past seven years. He's earned some of his best results with the team, placing second to Ben King in the 2010 US professional road race championship and taking a stage win and second overall at the Tour of Korea in 2012.
But Candelario's main contribution has been as a worker bee and road captain. Carney said he has been a stalwart on the team since coming over, and now the team will need to make some adjustments in his absence.
“He's not really the kind of guy that you can replace,” Carney said. “He's a leader, and he's been a guy who's been a big part of the team for I think seven years now. He's been responsible for quite a few of our results. I think he's the best lead-out guy in North America, so he's not the kind of guy you can easily replace.”
Eric Young, Optum's designated sprinter, has been one of the main beneficiaries of Candelario's services.
“He's been the pivotal rider in most of my wins over the last two years, so I really can't thank him enough,” Young said. “I'm going to miss him quite a lot. ...He's just Mr. Consistent, really. He's always the guy that's there. He's never not made a group that any sprint is going to come out of. He's done some of the best results on the team, and he's just a great guy to have around.”
Candelario, who currently resides with his wife and children in Bend, Oregon, said he plans to move to Hawaii, where his wife is from, to open a touring company called Big Island Bike Tours. Although he's retiring from professional road racing, Candelario said he won't be walking away completely from competitive cycling.
“I'll probably do some off-road stuff, you know, some mountain biking and some 'cross stuff in the future, for sure,” he said. “Cross was how I started out racing anyway, so that's always been my real passion. Unfortunately I have so much work to do getting this business off the ground that it's going to take up a lot of time just getting all the pieces into place. Next year, though, for sure.”