The women's professional peloton is losing some of its most successful riders at the end of 2021, with the 2016 Olympic champion and three-time World Champion Anna van der Breggen stepping off the bike and into the team car for SD Worx.
The 31-year-old isn't the only high-profile name to retire - some 25 female professional riders have decided to stop racing this year. Cyclingnews looks at five of the most prominent riders on the retirement list.
Anna van der Breggen became one of the sport's most successful riders over her 10 seasons as a professional, setting records for victories in La Flèche Wallonne, winning all three Ardennes Classics in 2017 and taking unprecedented double road world championship victories in 2020.
But success did not come immediately when the Dutch rider made the transition from the junior ranks. In her first elite season with Team Flexpoint in 2009, Van der Breggen hardly made a mark. However, after getting a nursing degree and spending a couple of seasons racing with the Dutch national team, Van der Breggen gained enough confidence and experience to join the pro ranks for good - first signing with the Sengers Ladies Cycling Team in 2012.
Van der Breggen then made enormous strides, winning three stages of the Tour de Bretagne, the GC, points classification and young riders classification in 2012, and went on to claim the European U23 time trial title and finish fifth in the UCI Road World Championships road race.
In 2013, she continued her upward trajectory, winning the sprint classification in the Healthy Ageing Tour, the Omloop van de IJsseldelta, coming fourth in the Emakumeen Bira stage race and at the Thüringen Ladies Tour as the best young rider. She landed on the podium in the GP de Plouay, her best finish in the then-World Cup, and was fourth behind Marianne Vos at the Worlds road race.
She joined Rabo-Liv the next season and started racking up more victories - Dwars door de Westhoek, the Festival Elsy Jacobs, finished third at the Giro Donne in a Rabo-Liv sweep with Vos and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, then won the Tour of Norway and two stages of the Lotto Belgium Tour. Van der Breggen firmly established herself as a major contender in 2015, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, her first La Flèche Wallonne, the Dutch time trial title, her first Giro Donne, La Course by Le Tour de France and the silver medal in the time trial and road race at Worlds in Richmond.
By 2016, Van der Breggen was the rider to watch along with compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten and, after repeating at La Flèche Wallonne, she went into the Rio Olympic Games as co-leader with Van Vleuten only to pass her compatriot, lying motionless on the descent after suffering a violent crash. She shook off the horror and won the gold medal - although she could hardly celebrate until much later after Van Vleuten had recovered from a concussion and spinal fractures.
She left Rabo-Liv the next season for Boels Dolmans, where she would remain through the end of her career, leading the highly successful Dutch team and winning three more Giro Donne titles, the Tour of California twice, the road world title in 2018, double world titles in 2020, La Flèche Wallonne five more times along with Liège–Bastogne–Liège (2017, 2018), the Tour of Flanders (2018), among other victories.
Van der Breggen opted to leave the sport on top to focus on starting a family, and will take a role as a directeur sportif with SD Worx.
Just one month older than Van der Breggen, Jolien D'hoore was a highly successful track racer from her junior days, where she claimed national titles in both sprint and endurance events as a junior and U23 rider, and on the road, where she claimed the victory in the junior road race at the UCI Road World Championships in South Africa in 2008.
D'hoore continued to combine track and road racing throughout her career, winning U23 European titles in the Omnium, Team Pursuit, and Points Race before moving into the elite ranks, where she won the European and World titles with Madison partner Lotte Kopecky (2016, 2017). She also won the bronze medal in the Omnium at the 2016 Olympic Games.
In 2015, D'hoore signed with Wiggle-Honda, launching the most successful season of her career, scoring 13 victories that year including three stages and the overall Baloise Belgium Tour - a feat she would repeat in 2016, as well as wins in the Omloop van het Hageland, Ronde van Drenthe and Crescent Vårgårda.
She was a four-time Belgian road champion, winner of four Women's Tour and three Giro Donne stages, Ronde van Drenthe (2015), and the Ceratizit Challenge (2016). After moving first to Mitchelton-Scott and then to Boels Dolmans/SD Worx, the victories became less frequent for D'hoore and her last major win came in 2020 at Gent-Wevelgem (2020), where she beat Kopecky from a small group sprint in the rescheduled October edition of the race.
D'hoore closed out her career in the inaugural women's Paris-Roubaix, a race she had targeted, but had bad luck in the rainy, muddy conditions and fought to the finish only to miss the time cut.
"I wish today would've been better but I'm happy it's over. You always want to reach higher but I'm pleased with what I achieved in my career. I'm most proud of my bronze medal at the omnium at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and also the 2017 world title in the Madison in Hong Kong," D'hoore said.
D'hoore was given a lifetime achievement award at the Het Nieuwsblad gala this fall. She will also return as a directeur sportif with the NXTG team in 2022.
After a long and successful career, German Trixi Worrack announced she would retire at age 40 after the first women's Paris-Roubaix. Although her retirement was postponed for a late call-up to the Women's Tour, Worrack ended her career quietly in October.
Worrack's career started in the junior ranks where she placed second to Genevieve Jeanson at the world championships in 1999, and she quickly became successful as an elite, taking wins at the Women's Challenge, Tour de Suisse Féminin and Vuelta a Mallorca in 2001. She joined Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung in 2003 and would remain with the team through its end in 2010. During her time with the powerhouse German team, Worrack won six national titles (three in the time trial, three in the road race) and a silver medal in the 2006 Worlds road race behind Marianne Vos. She also won the overall Tour de l'Aude Cycliste Féminin, Tour du Feminin and Giro della Toscana in 2004, and a stage of the Giro Donne.
After a year with the Dutch AA Drink team, Worrack joined the Specialized-lululemon team (later Canyon-SRAM) and was an integral part of the squad's five victories in the Team Time Trial World Championship.
Worrack won the Tour of California in 2015 and started 2016 with the overall win at the Tour of Qatar, but at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda she was involved in a crash that damaged her left kidney and she had surgery to remove the ruptured organ. With such a major surgery, it was uncertain whether Worrack would return to the sport. But three months later, she was back in action and won the German time trial championship.
Her role shifted to that of a team captain in the later years of her career, where her calm, quiet presence helped keep the team focussed. She followed her former teammate Ina Teutenberg to the new Trek-Segafredo team in 2019, and although she planned to retire in 2020, Worrack kept going for one more season until she and her partner had a baby in 2021 and she decided to stay closer to home.
In the future, Worrack will serve as a trainer for women and junior-level cyclists in her home region of Thüringen.
Dutch sprinter Kirsten Wild brought her storied career to a close after the UCI Track World Championships, where she added another title in the Madison with teammate Amy Pieters, bringing her rainbow jersey tally to nine on the track, in addition to her 109 victories on the road.
Wild raced casually, combining sport with working as a teacher, at first, and then joined the @Home Cycling Team in 2004 where she began competing internationally. She was the best young rider in the Simac Ladies Tour that year and in 2005 progressed further, coming fourth in the Dutch time trial championships and a podium in the Ronde van Gelderland. In 2006, Wild started winning, first in the Omloop door Middag-Husterland and then three stages and the overall Rabo Ster Zeeuwsche Eilanden. A second place at the Dutch time trial championships earned her a selection to the Dutch team for the World Championships in Salzburg, and she gave up her teaching career to race full time with the AA Drink Team.
In 2007, Wild won the Tour of Poland, winning three of the four stages and, at the end of the year, she took to the track with a focus on the 2012 Olympic Games. But her success on the track would come much later - first, Wild won Omloop Het Volk in 2008 and established herself as the sprinter to watch in the road peloton. By 2009, Wild was racking up victories at the Ladies Tour of Qatar and Grand Tour du Montréal where she won three of the five stages, her first Giro Donne stages and her first World Cup at the Nürnberger Altstadt.
By the end of her career, Wild amassed four overall wins at the Tour of Qatar and 10 stages, two wins at the Tour of Chongming Island and seven stages, and major one-day victories at Gent-Wevelgem (2019), Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne (2019) and the Omloop van Borsele five times. On the track, Wild's career highlight was a trio of titles at her home World Championships in Apeldoorn in 2018 (Scratch, Points Race and Omnium) competed in the Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016, finishing sixth in the Omnium and Team Pursuit in London and sixth in the Omnium in Rio before claiming her first Olympic medal with bronze in the Omnium in Tokyo.
American Ruth Winder chose to retire at the relatively young age of 28 after a successful career on the road and track. She began racing as a teenager in 2009 and found immediate success, winning the junior 15-16 road title. She turned professional with UnitedHealthcare in 2014.
She took up track racing and won her first national titles in 2010, catching the attention of USA Cycling, where she became an integral part of the team pursuit programme ahead of the Rio Olympic Games with Sarah Hammer, Jennifer Valente and the late Kelly Catlin. However, the addition of Chloe Dygert to the team in 2016 pushed Winder down the pecking order and although she went to the 2016 Olympics, the coaches did not select her to race.
The experience soured Winder on the track, and in 2017 she poured her energy into road racing with immediate success, winning the Redlands Classic, Joe Martin Stage Race, and Tour du Feminin - her first international road success - and finished the season as the best rider in the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour. She joined Team Sunweb in 2018 and won a stage at the Giro Donne and led the race for one day then won two stages of the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche.
Winder moved to the new Trek-Segafredo team in 2019 and began the year with a win on the opening stage of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and went on to win her first elite US national championship in Knoxville. She closed the year with another win in the prologue of the Lotto Belgium Tour. In 2020, she carried that momentum into the Tour Down Under, where she took the lead on stage 3 in Stirling and fended off a fierce challenge on the final stage to claim the overall victory. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the season, but Winder returned to help her team claim the opening team time trial of the Giro Donne.
This year, Winder won De Brabantse Pijl and again helped her team win the Giro d'Italia Donne TTT, where she took the leader's jersey for a day, and chalked up her final win at the Tour de l'Ardèche, winning stage 4 on the Mont Lozère.
Winder told Cyclingnews in July, "I'm the Ruth at home with my friends, my family and my fiancé, and I'm the bike-racer Ruth when I'm in Europe. It's become really clear for me that the universe back at home is the one that is pulling me stronger". Winder plans to continue coaching young riders while staying active racing gravel.
2021 women's retirees
- Rozemarijn Ammerlaan (Ned) NXTG Racing
- Anna Badegruber (Aut) Multum Accountants Ladies Cycling Team
- Madeline Bemis (USA) Rally Cycling
- Karol-Ann Canuel (Can) Team SD Worx
- Danielle Christmas (GBr) Drops-le Col Supported by Tempur
- Jolien D'hoore (Bel) Team SD Worx
- Janneke Ensing (Ned) Team BikeExchange
- Leigh Ann Ganzar (USA) Rally Cycling
- Kaitlin Keough (USA) Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld
- Lucy Kennedy (Aus) Team BikeExchange
- Lauren Kitchen (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope
- Claudia Koster (Ned) Team Coop Hitec Products
- Silje Mathisen (Nor) Team Coop Hitec Products
- Sara Penton (Swe) Drops-le Col Supported by Tempur
- Julia Soek (Ned) Team DSM
- Maria Vittoria Sperotto (Ita) A.R. Monex Women's Pro Cycling Team
- Silvia Valsecchi (Ita) BePink
- Nancy van der Berg (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Women Team
- Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Team SD Worx
- Bryony van Velzen (Ned) Doltcini-Van Eyck-Proximus Continental Team
- Emily Wadsworth (GBr) NXTG Racing
- Emma White (USA) Rally Cycling
- Kirsten Wild (Ned) Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team
- Ruth Winder (USA) Trek-Segafredo
- Trixi Worrack (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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