Silvère Ackermann, who used to ride for the Austrian Vorarlberg-Corratec team, put an end to his career in a highly symbolic and spectacular fashion during the Swiss championship road race, in June. He was part of a race-leading breakaway and could have battled for the national title, but he stopped at the road side and called it quits. At 25 years of age, he was just starting a promising career but decided to hang up the bike for quite radical reasons.
Speaking to French Cyclismag, Ackermann explained that he had been questioning his profession for a while.
"My decision was made at a training camp before the Tour de Suisse more than a year ago. I said to myself that if I was in a solo break, I would step off the bike and retire. It would have shocked more than one spectator, even more so if I had done it five metres before the finish line, almost winning a race. I would have done it like that, I'm crazy enough for that," said Ackermann, who waited until June 2010 to make his exit.
Ackermann turned pro with Vorarlberg-Corratec in 2009 after having raced with various amateur teams since 2005. But he soon started to question the world of professional cycling, and even the idea of competition itself which he finds intrinsically linked to doping.
"I'm tired of cyclists being morally held up as something they're not. The media, politicians, sponsors, the heads of the UCI - often these are people without any morals, they use double language all the time. They ask the athletes to be highly competitive and to respect so-called moral values at the same time. Those who advocate these sort of ideas must be joking, because they would be unable to apply them to their own activities."
Ackermann, whose good results in races helped him find self-confidence, finally found that the life of a pro rider didn't suit him. "I've seen too many people, particularly riders, to be eternally unsatisfied, running after a better team, a higher salary... without taking a single break to realize that they were already part of a very small minority of privileged people on this planet, without ever asking themselves what they could do for others. Now that I have experienced performance and have become disinterested with it, I'm slowing down to be a leisure cyclist again. On my bike, I cherish the present moment instead of fleeing it."
He is now searching for, "a job that will be more in tune with my values and useful to others. I hope I can travel at an easier pace, see the ocean and high mountains."