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Brent Bookwalter to retire at the end of 2021

Brent Bookwalter (Team BikeExchange)
Brent Bookwalter (Team BikeExchange) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Brent Bookwalter (Team BikeExchange) will race for a 10th and final time at USA Cycling Pro Road Championships this week and will retire from the sport at the end of the 2021 season. 

A 16-year veteran of the pro peloton, 14 years on two WorldTour teams, Bookwalter has raced in all three Grand Tours for a total of 11 appearances. He was part of the BMC Racing Team in 2011 that supported Cadel Evans in his Tour de France victory. 

Defining his career to Cyclingnews as a testament to “versatility and tenacity”, he has a laundry list of podiums at international races and US championships, plus represented the US at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, finishing 23rd in the time trial and 16th in the road race.

“It is a big decision, something I’ve thought about for a long time. I’ve updated the team about the decision to transition at the end of the season and they’ve been very supportive,” the 37-year-old told Cyclingnews about the choice to retire, a “deliberate reflection” which results from conversations with his family and friends in addition to Team BikeExchange. 

“They are a little disappointed that I would move on but they are understanding and appreciative for what I have brought to the organization the past couple of years. Ultimately I decided at the end of the season is a good time, and the right decision.

“It’s a time for transition and moving on to the next phase, and calling victory on my career with the accomplishments that I’ve had. I’m proud of what I have done and excited about the opportunities I had and equally excited for the future.”

That future has not been clearly defined as yet as he still has work to be done at US Pro Road Championships in Knoxville, and then continuing his European campaign with Team BikeExchange through September or October.

“The team has a pretty stacked calendar the rest of the season and I’m still motivated and inspired to get back to work with those guys. I feel like I’ve been able to offer quite a bit to the team in terms of my experience and my skill set, and I’m excited to continue to bring that to the team and out on the road,” he said from his home in Asheville, N.C.

Bookwalter has been with Team BikeExchange for three years and has transitioned to the role of road captain. He said he would not be on the Tour squad or ride the Vuelta, but continue with some one-day races and shorter stage races. 

“The team is really strong in the young rider department, and now is their time. I’m proud of my time that I had in those races. I did a big stack of them, and have lots of memories, and some war wounds, and some tears and glory to show for it,” he said.

“It’s symbolic of my career – I don’t have a home race or a fairytale ending. I’m proud and I’ve done well as a US rider who has made a life in Europe. I’ve done a whole slew of international races and all the Grand Tours. I’ve done most of the one-day Classic races and most of the week-long stage races. I’ve made a career of being diverse and adaptable, and doing it all. There shouldn’t be a reason not to finish that way as well.

“It’s a very good chance the US Pro Nationals could be my last race in the US, unless we can get back for the race in Maryland. The team is down for it [Maryland Cycling Classic], but it’s a complicated time to be going across the Atlantic for a one-day race.”

US Pro Nationals

Team Bikeexchanges Brent Bookwalter of US competes during the fourth stage of the 73rd edition of the Criterium du Dauphine cycling race a 16km time trial between Firmigny and RochelaMoliere on June 2 2021 Photo by Alain JOCARD AFP Photo by ALAIN JOCARDAFP via Getty Images

Brent Bookwalter (Team BikeExchange) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Bookwalter got a green light from Team BikeExchange to travel back to the US this month after racing Critérium du Dauphiné for he and his wife, Jamie, to get vaccinations for COVID-19 and for him to race US Pro. 

Going back more than 15 years, he won his first major championships as a junior at the UCI Mountain Bike and UCI Cyclo-cross world championships. He began his long road career in 2006 with a gold medal in the US National U23 Time Trial Championship. Since racing his first US Pro Road Championship two year later, he’s racked up nine appearances in the road race, finishing in the top 10 five times, and six appearances in the time trial, never finishing below fourth. However, he’s never won a US Pro race.

“I’ve had a long run at US Pro Nationals. It’s a trip down memory lane to think back to my first year at US Pro and the different position I was in with my career, the different position in the team, and all the journey and growth that has taken place. It gave me a deeper appreciation, a responsibility as a professional American cyclist to bring my best and leave it all out there for the jersey, not just another chance to race,” reflected Bookwalter.

“Even if that jersey has not materialized, I look back at the performances, ending up on the podium in the TT and the road race in all these different scenarios. I think it’s a testament to my versatility and tenacity.”

He said his strengths could also be his weaknesses, and the reason why he has not taken a US Pro title, yet. So he’ll focus on just the road race this year, and “focus this time on the experience of being at the race, and also being with the people in the community.

“I might have had a better chance in one of them [TT or road race] if I was more specialized for a certain course or in a certain year, but I’m proud of that consistency and continuity of strong performances,” Bookwalter told Cyclingnews.

“I have a different body, a different mind and a different set of skills now than I had when I was doing my first nationals. I’ll look to use all my tricks and my depth.”

Proud to be an American

SAUGUES FRANCE MAY 31 Brent Bookwalter of United States and Team BikeExchange at start in Brioude City during the 73rd Critrium du Dauphin 2021 Stage 2 a 1728km stage from Brioude to Saugues 935m Team Presentation UCIworldtour Dauphin on May 31 2021 in Saugues France Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

Brent Bookwalter (Team BikeExchange) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Bookwalter began his WorldTour career with US-based BMC Racing Team, which he said instilled many life lessons.

“I was fortunate racing in my early years with BMC Racing Team that they also valued sending us [to US Pro Nationals]. Gavin Chilcott, a team manager who was integral to bringing me there too, always said, ‘it’s the right thing to do’ - to be on one of the USA’s top teams and attend the Nationals. 

“It’s not always convenient and set in perfectly with the European race programme, but it is the right thing to do out of respect for the sport here, USA Cycling, and the young junior and U23 riders who are looking to the pros and dreaming of what their careers can be.”

As he reflects on his years in the pro peloton and racing all over the globe, Bookwalter said he enjoyed the stage races in the US the most since were rarely on his schedule and he considered them all “home” races.

“It’s been an honour to have had a chance to do high-level American races during my career and do well. Of those, I’d put Utah, Colorado and California up there,” said Bookwalter, who second overall at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (2015), third overall at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah (2015), and third overall at the Amgen Tour of California (2016). 

 “At the top would be the chance to do the World Championships in Richmond a few years back. My adult home has been western North Carolina, and that was pretty close. It was a rare opportunity to stay in the same time zone and have the world come to us and have family there. And the fact that one was also building towards the Olympics in 2016, I think that was one of my top US race memories.”

He added that his other top US race memory was at the 2013 US Pro Road Championships when it was held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as the pro cycling career of his wife Jamie (Team Colavita) overlapped with his and “I got to do TT recon with my wife, going through the corners and talking about it with her, that was special and really cool.” 

This time is the final curtain call on US Pro, and Bookwalter is ready, but not done.

“Knoxville this year means a lot. There’s nothing to lose, it’s one day and everyone wants that top step. I’m looking forward to the experience of racing in front of family.”

Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in  Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).