Tony Martin has said that his decision to retire from racing is because he “just didn’t feel safe in cycling anymore,” outlining his concerns over rider safety after helping Germany to a surprise gold medal in the mixed team time trial in the UCI Road Cycling World Championships in Bruges today to clinch the fifth rainbow jersey of his career in what is his final race.
His previous four, secured between 2011 and 2016, came in the individual time trial, and the German finished sixth in that event on Sunday as Italy’s Filippo Ganna retained his title.
In a press conference after today’s victory, he spoke of how he had chosen the world championships as the end-point of his career, saying that given the atmosphere he had experienced at the event and his past successes made it a fitting place to hang up his wheels.
But Martin, who still had a year to run on his contract with Jumbo-Visma, went on to give a damning critique of the safety of the sport, which he maintains is now worse than it was a decade ago.
It was a point he made in a statement released via his team on Sunday when he announced that he was retiring, but he expanded upon it today, saying that he wanted to stop racing “before something really serious happens to me.”
He said he had highlighted safety in the statement announcing his retirement because of what he saw as the difficulty of getting officials to listen to riders on the issue.
“I started fighting for this a long time ago and what I can say now is that nothing changed, you see all the bad crashes that happen,” he said.
“There are more now than 10 years ago, it shows that nothing happens, more the opposite way.
“I can just ask the federations to keep an eye on it and work hard on this, it won't influence my career anymore but it will influence all the young riders that have wanted to ride their bike for many years and I hope something will change and we won’t see these massive bad crashes anymore.”
Martin, who abandoned the Tour de France in 2015 while in the yellow jersey after a breaking his collarbone 1 kilometre from the end of Stage 6 – he was shepherded across the line by his then team mates at Etixx-Quick Step, but could not continue – was taken away on a stretcher at this year’s race following a crash on Stage 11.
A key lieutenant for Primoz Roglic at Jumbo-Visma often seen setting the pace at the front of the peloton, he sustained a broken elbow at Paris-Nice in March this year.
“Two times I was lying in the ambulance on the way to the hospital,” he said today, “full of blood and full of pain, at 36, and the dad of two daughters, you start questioning if it’s really worth it, what are you doing here?
“For me, I just didn't feel safe in cycling anymore, to be honest. I'm older, and after a few bad crashes you start thinking [about it] more than the young guys, that’s for sure.
“Racing wasn't really fun for me anymore, always thinking about crashes, avoiding crashes, I think also in the way the riders ride the race, the way they take more risks, the way that finals start way earlier, that changed, and I really realised that racing doesn't make this fun anymore than when I started racing.
“I still have passion for cycling , training, time trialling, giving 100 per cent, but I had no passion anymore for taking risks in the races and that’s why I'll say goodbye now before something really serious happens to me. That’s the main reason,” he added.
Besides his five rainbow jerseys, Martin’s palmares include five stage wins at the Tour de France and two at the Vuelta, 10 German national time trial championships, and overall victories at stage races including Paris-Nice in 2011, as well as the Eneco Tour and, twice, the Volta ao Algarve.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.