Rally Cycling's Will Routley has confirmed that 2016 will be his last season as a professional cyclist. The 33-year-old Canadian turned pro in 2005 with Symmetrics and spent the past three seasons with Rally and its predecessor Optum.
Routley took several high-profile victories during his 12 years as a professional, including the Canadian national road title in 2010, a stage and the mountains classification at the 2014 Tour of California and a sprint victory this year in stage 2 of the GP Liberty Seguros in Portugal on his way to second overall.
In a statement released Friday by the team, Routley said he has considered retirement for some time and was "pretty sure" he would stop on several previous occasions.
"I love the lifestyle, making sure you are healthy and feeling strong, well rested, and just going out and hammering the hell out of your body," he said. "I love that, but I am also wise after so many years of racing. I have no interest in getting hurt, and was starting to race cautiously the past couple of seasons. It is time to move on from racing and accomplish other goals."
Routley came from a mountain biking background but switched to road racing at the age of 21. He signed with Symmetrics in 2005 and raced with the Canadian team alongside current Rally Cycling staff Eric Wohlberg, Zach Bell and Jacob Erker for four years. He moved to Jelly Belly for two years in 2009 and 2010, then jumped to the Pro Continental level with Spidertech-C10 for two years through 2012. Routley tried his luck in Europe with Belgian Pro Continental team AccentJobs-Wanty in 2013 before returning to North America to finish out his career with Optum and then Rally.
He scored the biggest win of his career in 2014 at the Tour of California when he made the breakaway on stage 4 from Monterey to Cambria. A strong tailwind along the coast favoured the escapees, causing Mark Cavendish and the bunch to mistime the chase and allow Routley's six-rider group to fight for the win at the line. Routley added to his lead in the mountains classification that day, and he held the polka dot jersey through the overall finish in Thousand Oaks.
In his three years with the Optum and Rally teams, Routley stepped into a road captain and mentor role for the team's younger riders. In today's retirement announcement, the team recalled a day at this year's Tour of California that typified Routley's dedication to the team.
"At the start of the day, Routley had two objectives," the announcement read. "The first was to win the stage and the second was to take maximum KOM points to defend the King of the Mountains lead of teammate Evan Huffman. With a strong Etixx-QuickStep team controlling the stage, Routley sacrificed his chances for the stage victory in order to win the first three KOMs of the day and protect Huffman’s lead on a crucial stage. After the stage, Routley downplayed his sacrifice: 'Evan has been doing great and needed to take a day off.'"
Erker, Routley's former teammate and the current general manager for Rally Cycling, praised his fellow Canadian's dedication, professionalism and good humor, saying he will be missed.
"I had the pleasure of racing alongside Will on Symmetrics for four seasons and joined him on many of the adventures he recalls," Erker said in a statement released by the team. "Those challenges and the extensive world travel shaped Will into a well-rounded athlete and person both on and off the bike. We didn’t hesitate to bring him on board when the opportunity arose in 2014. He helped maintain the team culture that Jonas Carney fostered from the very beginning in 2007 and led by example, sharing his experiences with our younger athletes. In Will’s next challenges I have no doubt that he will bring this same winning dedication along with him."
Routley and his wife, Shoshauna, who is also a former pro, will now focus on their farm outside Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Healthy Hooch Kombucha company they just launched.
"We have done a total conversion of our workshop and it is now a brewery," Routley said of his latest project. "We have spent every spare minute in the past three months building the project. We have been drinking kombucha for 10 years, and although Canada is a few years behind the United States in terms of popularity of the drink, it is just blowing up here in the Vancouver area."
With his pro cycling career now in his rear-view mirror and new projects already literally brewing at home, Routley stopped for a moment to reflect on his years in the sport.
"I got to travel the world with guys that became my best friends," Routley said. "There were so many experiences one couldn’t get as a tourist. I drank tea with yak's milk on the Tibetan plateau after not finishing a race in China. I lived in an ice-cold stone apartment in the Pyrenees in southern France. I rode up a volcano to a tiny village in El Salvador, in the dark, and in a cloud of diesel fumes and wood smoke from people cooking on open fires.
"As a cyclist, one pretty much lives out of a suitcase, and I was very fortunate to have so much family time," he said. "Shoshauna was also racing and we didn't spend nearly as much time apart as other couples. Together we have traveled and spent winters in California, Belgium, Spain and France. Off the bike, I am proud of how I became a voice for clean sport. I never had a problem with telling it like it is and people respect that."