Marcel Kittel retires from professional cycling

Marcel Kittel has announced his retirement from professional cycling, saying: "I have lost all motivation to keep torturing myself on a bike."

The 31-year-old German sprinter terminated his contract with Katusha-Alpecin in early May, saying he wanted to take time away from the sport to consider his future. He spent a few days at the Tour de France, with Jumbo-Visma reportedly keen to sign him.

However, he confirmed his decision to retire in an interview with the weekend magazine of German news magazine Der Spiegel.

"Pain defines the sport, the world in which you live," Kittel said in a brief extract of the interview published on Friday. "I have lost all motivation to continue to torture myself on the bike."

Kittel will become a father in November and intends to study at University.

"As a cyclist, you’re traveling 200 days a year, and I do not want to see my son grow up on Skype," he said. “Family, friends, everything was too short, plus the permanent fatigue and the routine... I’ve realised this loss of quality of life more and more."

Kittel moved to Katusha-Alpecin after a hugely successful two seasons with Deceuninck-QuickStep, but won just three races with them. Kittel told Der Spiegel he didn't feel trust at Katusha - "only pressure, pressure, pressure”.

Kittel won 14 stages at the Tour de France, more than any other German rider, and ends his career with a total of 89 victories on his palmarès.

'A loss of quality of life'

After new of Kittel's retirement broke, he posted a message on his personal website.

"I would like to tell you all today that I am ending my career as a pro cyclist," he wrote. "I have thought long and hard about this decision and discussed it with my closest friends and my family.

"This decision process has not been a quick one, but has taken place over a long time: During my nearly 20 year sports career there have been not only incredible successes but also difficult times. I have always been one to openly question and reflect when such things happen, so that I can learn and become better.

"That, together with the people around me, has made me the successful athlete that I now am, but this method has also taught to leave my old ways and learn new ones. I know that there is much more than just sport, for example my own future family.

"Recently the thought on this future without cycling has grown, as has the awareness of the sacrifices that such a beautiful but also very difficult sport like cycling brings with it.

"The biggest question of the last few months was: Can I and do I want to continue to make the sacrifices needed to be a world-class athlete? And my answer is: No, I do not want that any more, because I have always found the limitations on a top athlete as an increasing loss of quality of life.

"That is why I have a very happy and proud that at this point in my life I can make the decision to follow my heart in a new direction.

At this point I would like to thank all the people who have supported me in my career: my former teammates, my trainers, my friends, and my family, but above all my fans for the incredible support in the last few years.

"I look forward to the future with much anticipation."

89 victories

Kittel won 14 stages at the Tour de France, more than any other German rider, and ends his career with a total of 89 victories on his palmarès.

He turned professional in 2011, his sprinting success helping the Skil-Shimano team step-up from Professional Continental level to the WorldTour. He won a stage at the 2011 Vuelta a España, beating Peter Sagan and quickly showing he was one of the fastest sprinters of his generation. He made his Tour de France debut in 2013, winning the first stage in Bastia, Corsica to pull on the yellow jersey, and the race's final stage on the Champs-Élysées.

Kittel's blonde hair and powerful stature made him stand out and he was not afraid to speak his mind on rider safety and doping, as part of a new generation of respected German riders. He repeated his four stage victories at the 2014 Tour de France, taking Mark Cavendish's crown as the worlds best and most consistent sprinter.

However the 2015 season was a disaster, with Kittel winning just a stage at the Tour de Pologne and not being selected for the Tour de France due to a lack of form. He and Giant-Alpecin split before the end of the season and he joined Patrick Lefevere's QuickStep team on a cut-price deal, going on to enjoy two hugely successful campaigns, including five stage wins at the 2017 Tour de France.

With the emergence of Fernando Gaviria, who was at the time Lefevere's next sprint project, Kittel opted to depart for pastures new and landed at Katusha, with German shampoo brand Alpecin keen to use Kittel's blonde locks to promote its products.

However the marriage never worked out and Kittel only managed two wins and failed to finish the Tour de France – a race in which he had previously won 14 stages. Kittlel told Cyclingnews he was trying to live like a monk to return to success in 2019 but thoughts of retirement were perhaps already in his mind.

He won the Trofeo Palma in Mallorca in early February but then quit Paris-Nice, admitting it was a difficult time. He was due to ride the Tour of California and then the Tour de Yorkshire but pulled out of both races and then terminated his contract with Katusha-Alpecin in May.

That only made him more aware that he lacked the motivation and desire to make the huge sacrifices need in professional sport.

"Family, friends, everything was too short, plus the permanent fatigue and the routine, I realized this loss of quality of life more and more," he says now, as a former rider.

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