Ian Stannard (Ineos Grenadiers)
Ian Stannard was an unassuming character from the start to the end of his career, but you only had to look at social media on November 5 to see just how much of an impact he has made on professional cycling. As he himself said with his 69th Tweet: “Wow, I didn’t expect a reaction like that.”
That was the morning the 33-year-old announced his retirement after 13 years. It was one of those retirements that’s not really a choice, but enforced by injury or illness. In Stannard’s case, he’d been struggling for the past year with rheumatoid arthritis. Long-term health became the primary concern and at that point the decision to hang up the wheels was an easy one to make.
Stannard will be remembered as a ‘tough’ or ‘hard’ rider - a pedal stroke of substance over style and a body seemingly impervious to the elements. He was a natural fit for the northern Classics and his defining achievement was his back-to-back Omloop Het Nieuwsblad success in 2014 and 2015, which came either side of a broken back. Not that the second one needed to be made any more special; Stannard’s dispatching of a trio of QuickStep riders was one for the ages.
Stannard also landed on the podium at Paris-Roubaix in an equally iconic 2016 edition, after doing the same at that year’s E3 Harelbeke. He wore the British national champion’s jersey in 2012 and won two stages of the Tour of Britain in a palmares that featured seven victories. But Stannard spent much of his career riding for others, using his strong, steady engine to pull pelotons for Team Sky and his broad shoulders to protect their climbers from the wind. He was part of the Tour de France winning squads of 2013, 2015, and 2016, and the Vuelta-winning squads of 2011 and 2017.
After turning pro with Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner in 2008 and making his Grand Tour debut at the ISD Team in 2009, Stannard joined Sky when they were set up in 2010 and stayed there ever since.
“I wanted to keep racing and that competitive fire still burns within me," he said on his retirement. "But I am proud of what I have achieved in the sport and look back at my career with great pride, especially racing for this team. It’s been a dream come true.”
Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal)
The Australian hangs up his wheels at the age of 39, after a career that has spanned 29 Grand Tours. He won’t be putting his feet up, though, as he’s heading into the world of Ironman, taking him back to his roots. As a young triathlete, it was a desire to improve his bike leg - then his weakest suit - that led Adam Hansen into the world of cycling, and in a way the past 15 years have been something of a glorious distraction.
He hit the pro ranks with T-Mobile back in 2007, and struck up a strong rapport with Andre Greipel, moving with him to Lotto Soudal in 2011. He was a key part of the German’s lead-out train over a number of successful seasons, and contributed to numerous major sprint victories. As well as his power in the closing kilometres, and his ability to call the shots, Hansen was an emblem of sheer consistency and durability. Of his 29 Grand Tours, 20 were ridden consecutively. From the 2011 Vuelta to the 2018 Giro, he didn’t miss a single three-week race, and he finished them all. It’s a record that will surely stand for some time.
While he spent much of his career in the role of teammate and road captain, Hansen still managed some success for himself, with his stage wins at the 2013 Giro and 2014 Vuelta standing out among his four pro victories. The former was a solo ride from the breakaway amid driving rain and undulating hills, while the Vuelta win was a neat foiling of the sprinters with a late attack into Cangas de Morrazo on stage 19.
Hansen will leave a hole in the peloton in 2021, not just for his riding but his status as one of its leading voices. A staunch defender of riders’ interests, he has acted as a delegate for the riders’ union, the CPA, on numerous occasions. At the Giro d’Italia, his final race, he helped secured the shortening of stage 19 amid adverse weather conditions, despite his team stance being to race the full stage.
"I’ve done cycling for a number of years and you do the same races over and over but when I did Ironman Florida last year I was nervous before the start and in cycling a lot of riders miss this because when you’ve got a role you’re helping out you lose the aspect of your racing,” he told us recently. “When I was on the start line at Ironman it was on me.”
Axel Domont and Clement Chevrier (AG2R La Mondiale)
Two for the price of one here, as the AG2R La Mondiale pair are both leaving the sport early and heading into the wine industry.
Axel Domont turned pro with AG2R in 2013, having come through their development squad, while Clement Chevrier came through the Hagens Berman Axeon set-up before turning pro with IAM Cycling in 2015 and joining AG2R from 2017. They have one victory between them - Domont with a stage at the 2014 Circuit Sarthe - and have spent most of their careers riding in the service of others.
Both were told this summer that their contracts would not be renewed as the AG2R team secured new funds from Citroën and invested in a raft of high-profile signings, including Greg Van Avermaet and Bob Jungels. Both had hoped to be kept on, but had already been thinking about their passions away from the sport, and decided against scrapping for contracts elsewhere in a crowded market.
Domont, 30, will become a winemaker, setting up on a small patch of land in Savoie in the Alps. It’s a move he had been thinking about for a few years, as he suffered crash after crash. “Seeing my career slide, I reflected a lot,” he told France Bleu. “I thought about my passions, which are geared around nature and the outdoors. This is a job that makes sense to me - working the land without chemical products.”
Domont had already started taking courses in wine growing, but his mind was firmly made up when he crashed out of the Vuelta and broke his collarbone for the sixth time. “I found myself in hospital in Spain, with the language barrier, and I felt stupid. I said to myself ‘what are you doing here. You’d have been better off staying in your field, or in your wine cellar - that’s your place.'”
As for Chevrier, the 28-year-old is already well on his way to being a fully-qualified sommelier, and wine runs in his family, with his grandparents hailing from Beaujolais. He’ll be offering advice to clients on purchasing and food pairings, and hopes one day to work in a high-end restaurant.
Like Domont, he realised cycling was no longer for him. “I reconsidered things in lockdown and I realised that I didn’t miss the world of cycling,” he told Vélo magazine. “I understood that I wasn’t happy.”
Oscar Gatto (Bora-Hansgrohe)
The most dramatic win of Oscar Gatto’s career came on the 2011 Giro d’Italia, when he attacked on the punchy finale at Tropea and managed to hold off the pursuit of Alberto Contador. Then in his fifth season in the peloton, the victory marked something of a restart for the Italian, who had turned professional with Gerolsteiner in 2007 but only begun to find his way after joining Luca Scinto’s ISD squad two years later.
The step down to the Pro Continental level allowed Gatto the chance to lead, and he scored eight other victories in the fluorescent colours of Vini Fantini, most notably Dwars door Vlaanderen in 2013, when he secured the win with a perfectly-timed sprint in Waregem.
That triumph secured his return to the WorldTour with Cannondale in 2014, where he first linked up with Peter Sagan. After a year with Androni in 2015, Gatto returned to Sagan’s side with Tinkoff in 2016 and, after a stint at Astana, he finished his career with another two years in the service of the Slovakian at Bora-Hansgrohe.
Gatto’s final outing as a professional came at Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne in October. “Already for a while, I’d been thinking that the moment had come to hang up my wheels,” the 35-year-old told Tuttobici. “I could have gone on racing for another few years, there were possibilities, but I didn’t have the right feeling with the bike anymore.”
Jurgen Roelandts (Movistar)
The Belgian has been around for 15 years but the rigours of professional cycling have caught up with him. As he said in his retirement statement: “I know I still have what it takes to compete at WorldTour races, but training and racing with pain – day in, day out – makes it incredibly hard, physically and mentally."
The 35-year-old retires with seven victories and two Monument podiums in the bag. Roelandts' wins came in the form of the Belgian road race title in 2008, a stage and the overall of the 2012 Eurométropole Tour, plus stages at the Tour de Luxembourg, Tour de Pologne, and Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
Although he lacked the speed of the pure sprinters, he packed a fast finish, especially at the end of tough races. He was third at Milan-San Remo in 2016 and fifth in 2018, and also placed fifth in the 2011 World Championships won by Mark Cavendish. He also helped lead the line in the Spring Classics for Lotto Soudal, where he started his pro career in 2008. He was second at E3 in 2011 and third at Flanders in 2013, finishing behind Peter Sagan in the sprint for second, 90 seconds back on solo winner Fabian Cancellara. He also has top 10s to his name at Gent-Wevelgem, Scheldeprijs, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and the 2012 Olympic Games road race.
Roelandts spent the final two seasons of his career at Movistar, a world away from the Classics-oriented Lotto Soudal. He led the line alone in the spring and helped protect Grand Tour leaders, but struggled with crashes and injuries. It was a shoulder injury that ended his career prematurely at the BinckBank Tour, having planned to go out with his 10th Tour of Flanders and the Driedaagse De Panne.
Jon Dibben (Lotto Soudal)
A former world champion, Jon Dibben has decided to call it a day at the tender age of 26. The Briton was a force on the track but wasn’t able to establish himself in the same way on the road scene, and didn’t receive a contract extension from Lotto Soudal.
Dibben had been in a similar position two years previously, when his two-year contract with Team Sky - his first as a fully-fledged road pro - expired at the end of 2018. He spent a year on the domestic circuit with Madison Genesis before returning to the WorldTour with Lotto Soudal this year, but found himself short of options at the top level for 2021.
The highlight of Dibben’s career was the world title he won in the points race at the 2016 Track Worlds in London. Alex Dowsett recently described his race-winning acceleration - in which he caught and flew past late-attacker Benjamin Thomas - as “one of the most incredible things I’ve seen in cycling to this day."
Dibben, however, missed out on selection for that year’s Olympic Games, as Great Britain decided to take Mark Cavendish as the Omnium pick and back-up team pursuit rider. He then switched to the road as a young Classics prospect, having placed second in the U23 Tour of Flanders in 2016. He won the time trial at the Tour of California in a fine first season, but struggled in 2018 and was forced to drop two divisions. Back in the WorldTour, the pandemic scuppered Dibben’s opportunities in 2020, both in terms of racing and the transfer market.
His final outing came at the Giro d’Italia - his first and only Grand Tour - and he was able to soak up his exit amid the sunset in the mountains on the penultimate stage to Sestriere.
Christian Knees (Ineos Grenadiers)
Another rider who retires on the cusp of his 40th birthday, Christian Knees stands down after establishing himself as one of the peloton’s most reliable domestiques over the past 17 years. He has a German road race title, plus wins at Bayern-Rundfahrt and Round um Koln, on his palmares, but has mainly deployed his engine in service of Grand Tour and Classics leaders.
Knees turned pro with Milram in 2006 and spent five seasons there. His German road race title helped him when the team folded at the end of 2010, and he joined Team Sky in what was the team’s second season. He never left, and still won’t, taking up a coaching role from 2021.
Over the past decade, Knees, who only signed for Team Sky after Christmas in 2010, became one of the British team’s most trusted figures. He was part of the engine room that delivered the team’s first Tour de France title through Bradley Wiggins in 2012, and he went on to become an important ally of Chris Froome. Although he didn’t ride the Tour between 2013 and 2016, he was by Froome’s side as he won three Grand Tours in a row - the 2017 Tour, 2017 Vuelta, and 2018 Giro.
“That was something really special. I was the only guy who was with him at all three of those Grand Tours,” he said. “It wasn’t that much recognised in public, but for me it’s not about that – I love my job and I like that I can look back and tell my grandchildren about this one day.”
Yoann Offredo (Circus-Wanty Gobert)
Yoann Offredo first announced himself with an aggressive showing at Milan-San Remo in 2010, and 12 months later he looked to be a coming man of the Classics, placing fourth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then helping to spark the winning move on the Cipressa en route to seventh at Milan-San Remo.
His progress was interrupted in 2012, however, when he was suspended for a year after recording three anti-doping “whereabouts” errors. By the time he returned, Arnaud Démare had taken up the mantle as France’s next Classics hope.
Offredo enjoyed something of a renaissance when he moved to Wanty-Groupe Gobert in 2017, delivering strong showings on the cobbles and making his first Tour de France appearance that year as part of a team composed entirely of debutants.
Earlier in his career, Offredo had expressed an aversion to La Grande Boucle and to stage racing in general – his lone previous Grand Tour was the 2010 Vuelta, which he abandoned. No matter, he took to July racing with gusto, and he was a perennial attacker in the Tour, picking up a Prix de la Combativité in each of his three appearances with Wanty.
An ankle injury that had its genesis in his heavy crash at the 2019 GP de Denain saw Offredo miss the 2020 Tour and, ultimately, forced his retirement. In a revealing interview with L’Équipe in November, Offredo spoke of his sadness at involuntary retirement, saying: “I used to exist as a rider, but as a man, who am I?”
The 34-year-old has plans to study journalism in university and he already showed an aptitude for the profession during the 2020 Tour, when he was an articulate and cogent analyst in the France Télévisions studio.
Enrico Gasparotto (NTT Pro Cycling)
The two-time Amstel Gold Race winner has called time on his career at the age of 38, after 16 years as a pro. The diminutive Italian was a true puncheur, with his Amstel brace in - one apiece on the new and old courses - standing out on a palmares that features 10 victories.
Gasparotto turned pro with Liquigas in 2005 and immediately landed the tricolore in the Italian road race championship. He spent three seasons there, wearing the pink jersey on the 2007 Giro and helping Danilo Di Luca win the race overall, before lone years at Barloworld - during which he won the Europe Tour - and at Lampre. In 2010 he joined Astana and spent five years there, winning Amstel for the first time in 2012. It wasn’t all plain sailing, as he was linked to Dr Michele Ferrari in testimony provided to the Padova doping inquiry. He has denied all wrongdoing, telling Cyclingnews in 2014: "If somebody is interested in Gasparotto Enrico, they can go and look into it fully like Wanty did, and any doubts can be removed by talking to the doctors and all the people who worked with me in various teams over the years."
Deemed surplus to requirements at Astana, Gasparotto had to scrap for a contract in 2015 and wound up at Wanty, repaying the Belgian team with a second Amstel win in 2016. That propelled him back to the WorldTour with the nascent Bahrain team, before he spent the final two years of his career at NTT.
Gasparotto, who took up Swiss nationality in 2019, made his last appearance at the 2020 Vuelta a España.
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