UnitedHealthcare's Jeff Louder announced this week that he will retire at the end of the season. The 14-year pro used the team presentation at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, a race he won in 2008, to let the fans in his home state know he had decided to call it quits.
"Retiring has been something that's been on my mind for a few years," Louder told Cyclingnews before the race started Monday in Cedar City. "I'm 37-years-old this year, and so it's been something that I've been thinking about. It's been a hard decision because I love the sport and I love bike racing, and UnitedHealthcare is a great team. So I kind of debated about it back and forth for a few years."
Louder started his professional career in 2000 with the German Landbouwkrediet-Colnago team. He came back to the states in 2003 and raced with Navigators through the 2005 season before switching to HealthNet for two seasons. He moved to the fledgling BMC team for four seasons through 2011 before transferring to UnitedHealthcare.
During his career, Louder won the 2008 Tour of Utah when it was still a National Racing Calendar event. He took the overall at the Redlands Bicycle Classic in 2009, and he was seventh overall at the 2007 Tour of Georgia. He won the mountains classification at the Tour of Missouri that same year.
The UHC rider was second at the US pro time trial in 2005 and third at the US pro road race in 2009. He also won stages of the Cascade Cycling Classic, the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Tour of Qinghai Lake. Louder rode the Giro d'Italia in 2010, and he competed in classic races such as Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo and Giro di Lombardia during his career.
Louder said his ability to ride at the level he expects of himself has become harder and harder over the years, and his respect for the sport caused him to consider stepping away from pro racing.
"There's a certain amount of pressure there just to honor the sport, to know that you deserve to be there and you're there giving your best performance," he said. "And even though I was giving everything that I had, I'm just starting to feel that it's not enough for my own expectations. So there's a certain amount of pressure there that I'm looking forward to relieving."
The fact that Louder's kids are growing up also played into the decision.
"I'm starting to miss the opportunities and the time with them that I would love to be able to spend with them," he said. "And so for those reasons, you know, family and just the fact that I am getting older, I just decided that it's as good a time as any."
He will race the USA Pro Challenge later this month in Colorado, and then he'll compete at the US pro criterium championships in High Point, North Carolina.
"It's kind of ironic and also fitting as an American cyclist to end with a criterium," he said. "But things aren't always perfect. If I could finish at the top of Snowbird that would be perfect. But I'm looking forward to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and the pro crit. I love racing in August, it's really a great time of year for me and really a great time for the sport in the US. So I'm honored to be apart of this stuff and keep doing it."
Louder currently coaches several athletes, and he's hoping to expand that business when he retires. He also plans on coaching a training program with a local cycling club in Salt Lake City.
"But I'm also going to cast a wide net and see what I can bring up," he said. "My experience is cycling, and so I'm just hoping to find something that I can put my focus on."