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'A fighter and a team player': Germany’s mixed relay world champions pay tribute to Tony Martin

BRUGES BELGIUM SEPTEMBER 22 Tony Martin of Germany celebrates winning the gold medal on the podium ceremony the day withdraws from professional cycling after the 94th UCI Road World Championships 2021 Team Time Trial Mixed Relay a 445km race from KnokkeHeist to Bruges flanders2021 TT on September 22 2021 in Bruges Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Tony Martin was a “fighter” and a “team player”, according to tributes issued by his gold medal-winning teammates after Wednesday’s mixed relay victory at the UCI Road World Championships.

The German, who announced his retirement on Sunday, bowed out in style on Wednesday, ending a 15-year career with another rainbow jersey on his shoulders as he claimed his eighth world title in the Team Time Trial Mixed Relay. 

The 36-year-old was the story of the day and, even if the man himself was keen to highlight the fact that his five teammates were also world champions, they were more than happy for this to be about Tony.

“When we heard some days ago that this would be his last event, we promised him to make it a good one,” was the first thing Lisa Brennauer said in the winners’ press conference.

“Everyone was super motivated. It couldn’t have gone any better. We’re super happy for him to end his amazing career like this.”

When the five of them, as a whole, were asked about Martin’s impact and influence, Brennauer quickly took the microphone and took it upon herself to be the one to answer. 

“For me, he was always a person to look up to,” she said. “His TT performances were so outstanding for so many years, but he was mentally strong.

“Even when he had a setback, like in the 2016 Olympics for example, he came back to Qatar at the Worlds and he became world champion. So he’s a fighter. He had lots of lows in his career as well, but he always fought his way back. For every athlete, that’s something we have our biggest respect for and something I keep in my mind, to try and be the same fighter.

“He’s been an athlete we really look up to as the German cycling team and I wish him the best for the future.”

Unprompted, Nikias Arndt then picked up the baton.

“Another thing is, when I look back to when I first rode with him - at the Worlds in Richmond [2015] and Bergen [2017], he was always a great team player,” Arndt said.

“He was not keeping all his knowledge for himself. He was really keen to share it, and that made him the special guy he was. He was a real team player, and he always looked out for the young guys or his teammates, and that’s something I’ll keep in mind. He’s just a great team player and that’s one thing I’ll always remember.”

The affection had already been clear to see from the squad’s celebrations in Bruges. Martin himself described the moment they watched the Netherlands’ clock turn red - and subsequently sprang from their seats - as one of the highlights of his whole career. Those scenes continued onto the podium, where he was draped in a German flag by his beaming teammates.

Question marks were again raised about the value of the mixed relay on its second outing at Worlds, but for Martin, Brennauer, Arndt, Lisa Klein, Max Walscheid, and Mieke Kroger, it gave them something they’ll surely remember forever.

“It was a special day for all of us,” Arndt concluded. “To race together the last day in his career made it even more special than it already was.”

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.