Tom Veelers has been forced to retire from professional cycling due to a persistent knee injury. The 32-year-old Giant Alpecin rider had a contract with the team for 2017 but after enduring two successive injury-hit seasons, and two surgeries, he has decided to hang up his wheels. He did not race throughout the 2016 season. He will remain part of the team – known as Team Sunweb in 2017 – as part of the coaching staff.
"I came to the conclusion that I can't live any longer in an uncertainty of returning to the highest level or not, without real progression in the recovery," Veelers wrote in a team press release.
"The last one and a half years have been tough, battling recovery. The realization that my career could have ended came gradually, and accelerated when we started talking about the future and the arising opportunity within the team.
"I look back on my career very proudly and happily. I am blessed with the chances I've had and we've created as a team. Together we grew and have experienced a lot. As a person I've developed, learned life lessons and I gained confidence. In the team I learned to function as a real team, with great cooperation. This was something completely new to me at that time and this approach brought us a lot of success, and still does.
"Of course I would have loved to continue racing for some years, but I don't see any other possibility than to stop. I am a thoughtful person and the decision hasn't been made overnight. This step will mean a new chapter in my life and I am very much looking forward to it. I am happy to add my value to the team in a new way now and thinking about the future gives me a new energy."
Veelers turned professional with the team in 2008 and became one of their prominent leadout riders, helping Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb to numerous wins. The Dutchman was also a dependable Classics rider, finishing 13th in the 2010 edition of Paris-Roubaix. Veelers also won two stages of the Tour of Qinghai Lake and one stage of the Tour of Hainan.
Team physician Anko Boelens explained the background surrounding Veelers' injury: "Tom has been fighting knee pain caused by a cartilage defect on the patella-femoral joint, between the patella and the femur. To overcome his injury, Tom underwent two surgeries to fix the defect cartilage. In addition, he did physiotherapy, as well as treatments from the chiropractor. Unfortunately, he is still suffering from pain in the knee and he is unable to put pressure on the affected area, and as a consequence needs to end his professional career."