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Young Danish rider retires, cites rampant use of pills in pro peloton

Ludvig Wacker was part of the Sunweb team at the Brussels Cycling Classic in 2019
Ludvig Wacker was part of the Sunweb team at the Brussels Cycling Classic in 2019 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ludvig Anton Wacker, a promising young Danish racer who was on the Sunweb Development team for two seasons, has decided to call a premature end to his cycling career after being unable to shake off fears stemming from a high-speed crash in 2020 and disillusionment over the use of pills in the pro peloton.

In a wide-ranging interview with Feltet.dk, Wacker described how he struggled to regain confidence and then lost his motivation to race and train during the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season.

Additionally, like many young riders who have quit the sport in years past, Wacker pointed to the use of pills as another reason he became disillusioned.

"I'm tired of pills in sport. They may be legal pills, but I'm tired of pills in cycling and I think it's grotesque that it has to be so obvious," Wacker told Feltet.dk.

"It's so obvious. In the big races, people ride around with little containers in their pockets with pills and so on. I've never wanted to take anything myself, and then you know that in all the finals, the others are taking something you're not taking. There are painkillers and caffeine among other things. It's absolutely ridiculous the amount people take. Because you don't know what it might do to a rider's body in 20 years' time," Wacker said, before absolving the teams of responsibility.

"I think it's often the young riders who do it themselves. It's not necessarily the team that's doing it. The riders can get it themselves. It's very easy to get access to."

The winner of Gent-Wevelgem for juniors at 17, Wacker moved to the Netherlands at age 18 to join Sunweb's Development team in 2019. In his second season, he raced only three days before the pandemic brought the calendar to a halt. The first event back started a downward spiral that eventually led to Wacker's decision to quit.

"There are several reasons why I'm stopping. I crashed last year in Randers Bike Week," he told Feltet.dk. The event is a four-day race for all levels of amateurs and professionals. "The crash itself was at high speed, but I didn't hurt myself too badly. But in my head it was much worse than it really was.

"Then it all went wrong at the 2020 Danish championships, where I ... sat too far back because I was too cautious. Then I just stood there on the side of the road with my mum and dad. The next day I called Sunweb and said I didn't want to continue there, even though they had talked to me about an extension. I had to go home."

Sensing that his move to the Netherlands and full immersion into pro cycling had come at too young an age, Wacker moved back to Denmark and joined the CO:Play-Giant team in hopes of finding his feet in races again but instead found the opposite.

"I was actually in good shape for the upcoming season this year, but when we reached the first race, I was just completely switched off mentally and was actually scared. I don't know what caused it. The pattern repeated itself afterwards, where I was going strong in training, but as soon as I got a number on my back it went the wrong way, where I was afraid of crashing."

Now working part-time at a bike shop, Wacker struggled to find the inspiration to train, too.

"I lacked motivation. Suddenly going to work was fun, and then maybe going out to train on a January night in Copenhagen wasn't so fun. It's not very exciting to train in Copenhagen. I'm used to training around Roskilde, where my parents live and it's really nice, but here it's just the same main roads," he said.

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