Quebec native David Veilleux's penultimate day in the professional peloton at Friday's home Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec didn't quite have the hoped for storybook ending as he withdrew late in the race after being dropped by the peloton. Nonetheless, when the 25-year-old Canadian rolled across the finish line alone after the 14th of 16 laps, he was welcomed home with applause and adulation.
"It was a good day and I tried to enjoy my time here knowing it's my last few kilometres of racing," Veilleux told Cyclingnews after the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec, surrounded by family and friends sporting Europcar jerseys and wielding "Le Caribou" (his team's nickname for the Quebecois) banners. "I'm happy to spend it here in front of my friends and family and all my fans. I was really happy to see a lot of people who came out to cheer for me. I'm really thankful for that."
Just this past Wednesday Veilleux made the unexpected announcement that he was retiring from cycling after the two WorldTour races in his home country of Canada - Friday's Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and Sunday's Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal - bringing to a conclusion a career which seemed to be just hitting its full stride.
After spending four years on US-based Continental teams, Veilleux joined French Pro Continental squad Europcar in 2011 and has remained there through his imminent exit from the pro peloton. Veilleux won races in each of his three years at Europcar with this season his best to date, highlighted by a solo victory in the opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine (and a stint in the leader's yellow jersey) and his Grand Tour debut at the Tour de France, which Veilleux finished in 123rd place. Veilleux also won the Boucles de la Mayenne stage race and placed 2nd in stage two at the Rhone-Alpes Isere Tour.
"I think this summer I really achieved a lot of my goals - just to take part in the Tour and finish it. With the Dauphine I really had a good ride there with the win [on stage 1] and the yellow jersey. I'm just extremely happy of what I've achieved and I can leave with my head high."
A return to university beckoned, with Veilleux wanting to complete his mechanical engineering studies at l'Universite de Laval. The decision to retire came to fruition following the Tour. "It was a process of a few weeks. I was just thinking about it."
Veilleux has managed to take courses part-time throughout his professional career, and now it's time to wrap up his college education.
"I've been in school for the past five years, and I have two years left now that I can attend full-time."
While professional cycling will cease to be his vocation, Veilleux intends to stay involved in the sport.
"I will try to give back to cycling here in Quebec," said Veilleux. "I'm not sure exactly how at the moment as I'll focus on school for the next two years, but after that I'll find a way to help the kids here and promote cycling in Quebec and Canada."
While Friday's Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec afforded Veilleux the opportunity to race on roads only a handful of kilometres from his home, he still has one more race to go - Sunday's Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal.
"I know my form is not the best of the year so I'm going to just go there and try to enjoy the time and do what I can."