Britain's Helen Wyman has announced her retirement from professional racing, ending her 15-year cyclo-cross and road racing career but promising to stay in the sport and help promote women's and grassroots participation.
36-year-old Wyman won 10 British national titles, two European titles and finished third in the 2014 world championships in Hoogerheide, in the Netherlands. Her palmarès includes 77 victories, including four in the Koppenberg cross race and a number of major road races.
In her retirement announcement, Wyman modestly suggested she had "taken the sprinkling of talent I had and made the most of it". She admitted that she had decided to retire after recently lacking "the fight you need to compete with the very best".
"In an increasingly competitive sport you cannot achieve what you are capable of without huge desire. If I continued, I feel I would not be doing myself justice; that's not how I would ever want to be remembered," Wyman wrote.
"The last 15 years of my life have been off the scale amazing. I could never have imagined this epic journey and I wouldn't change a single thing. When you are training in the brutal side winds that Belgium does so well, with freezing rain lashing at your face, you will question your life choices. However, I promise you the day you stand on a world championship podium you will only ever remember the sunshine drenched rides that made your heart glow.
"Although times haven't always been rosy, as the sun sets on my racing career, I know I've taken every opportunity I could and more. I've taken the sprinkling of talent I had and made the most of it. I've wrung out every drop of determination to achieve what I have. I have tried, failed and tried all over again from the first day of my career to the last and I know I will take this attitude with me into my next roles, whatever they may be. Packed around 77 race wins, I've been to 16 World Cyclo-cross Championships and three World Road Championships. That's not too bad in my book."
The Helen100 fund
Wyman helped fund and promote a project to ensure 100 young female riders were reimbursed their entry fee for this year's British national championships and used leftover donations to help out on a junior women's race at the Loenhout DVV Trofee race.
She intends to continue to help young riders, offering to share her years of experience.
"To all you up and coming racers, both girls and boys, I'm still here for you," Wyman wrote.
"I have a wealth of experience and am not going to ditch you all just because I'm not racing myself. I have an exciting role with my team and a responsibility to the sport to pass on my experience in every way, from training camps and clinics, to race-day lines and tactics. I promise no question is a bad question and I am also not done with pushing the development of the sport. I'm not sure what else I will be doing; my diary is open and it's time for me to look for new challenges, I hope in the cycling world. That's liberating and scary at the same time."
The Helen100 project has big goals, both at grassroots and elite-level competition: "I've really got ambitions for women's youth categories in cross, and as you may realise by now, I have a certain quiet, dogged determination that has already been focused in your direction."
Wyman has already announced she and her husband Stef will lead cycling holidays from her French home in Rennes les Bains, including gravel tours and trips to the see the Tour de France in July.
Wyman thanked all the friends she had made from the world of cyclo-cross and highlighted the camaraderie of the sport. She has stopped racing as a professional but will still be involved in cycling in so many ways.
"I can honestly say that cycling has made me who I am," Wyman wrote.
"From when I was a kid, my best friends were the people I met through cycling. The names and faces have changed over the years, but the circumstances of me meeting my friends remains the same. There is a level of camaraderie in cyclo-cross like no other discipline of cycling. The confidence I have in life has come from the lessons I have learnt through my sport and competition. I met the love of my life at a National Trophy in Margem Park in 2000 and together we have had the privilege of travelling the world in the name of my hobby.
"Thank you to every single person who has been part of my amazing career on the bike and thank you to every one of you who has helped me make a difference in our very special sport off the bike. For now, this isn't goodbye; more like tot ziens."
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