As Alberto Contador bids adios, Felix Lowe ponders the retirement options for the sport’s big names
With Alberto Contador hanging up his helmet, Felix considers how he and other greats of the sport might spend their retirement years. It turns out there are worse things than reality TV…
Having largely fired blanks since winning the 2015 Giro d’italia, Alberto Contador – El Pistolero – rode off into the Spanish sunset with two smoking barrels after being both sizzle and steak during last month’s Vuelta a España.
Days of fruitless attacks were capped by Contador going bananas on the Alto de l’angliru to win the Vuelta’s queen stage and rise into the top five on GC. He plainly didn’t give a fig about finishing fourth, and instead milked the Madrid crowd on his final appearance as a pro.
Many people will say he should have retired earlier, at the peak of his powers, but who among us could really have turned down that $2m-per-year Trek contract and the chance, however slim, to wear a pink/yellow/ red jersey just one more time. His heroics on the Angliru were at least a fitting finale. And in terms of bowing out on a high, even the great Eddy Merckx failed to win a Grand Tour in his final three years before retiring at the age of 32 after a humdrum 1977 season.
In this respect, Bernard Hinault surpassed the Cannibal by leaving the sport while still dominating it. In 1986, his La Vie Claire teammate Greg Lemond may have been Best In Show at the Tour de France, but Hinault harried him all the way just to remind everyone who the real alpha dog was.
So what next for Contador now that he has hung up his holsters? Given his riches, he won’t have to work again in a hurry. Others don’t have that luxury. Many ex-pros with bills to pay take to media: Sean Kelly makes more calculations than an accountant for Eurosport, while Dan Lloyd and Matt Stephens host a cycling Youtube channel.
Over on ITV, David Millar needles Chris Boardman, who – not content with a bike business to rival Merckx’s or Mario Cipollini’s – has gone all political with his new role as Manchester’s walking and cycling commissioner.
If Contador doesn’t fancy starting his own bike brand, there’s always the directeur sportif route. Take Sky’s Nicolas Portal, who is proof that more success can come behind the wheel of a team car than in the saddle.
Or he could try his hand at other sports. Oscar Periero scored twice in two games for his local football side, while Bradley Wiggins, having sucked at ski jumping, continues to go against the tide by floating the idea of becoming an Olympic rower.
Others pursue their dreams beyond sport. Paolo Fornaciari went from gregario to gelato impresario with his Tuscan ice cream parlour; Djamolidine Abdoujaparov breeds racing pigeons; Iban Mayo drives trucks; Marzio Bruseghin farms donkeys; the Schlecks have literally gone fishing; Alfons de Wolf, the 1981 Milan-san Remo winner, is an undertaker.
Another working stiff is the multitalented Floyd Landis. Having flirted with NASCAR driving and computer hacking, he settled on opening a cannabis company in Colorado, installing old pal Dave Zabriskie as marketing manager.
Contador, of course, can cherry-pick his projects. A keen singer, he may be tempted by Tu Cara Me Suena – Spain’s answer to Stars In Their Eyes. For similar reasons, he may think twice if approached by Vuelta sponsor Elpozo for a role in promoting their packaged meat products.
Talking of food, the obvious answer to the question of what most cyclists get up to in retirement is quite simple: they eat. Have you seen 1994 Giro winner Evgeni Berzin recently? Someone should tell him that selling cars doesn’t involve devouring them.
It seems Contador will be no exception. He’s already admitted he’ll gain weight and is looking forward to enjoying cooked breakfasts without having one eye on the scales. At the close of his career he may have been unable to bring home the bacon, but it’s almost certain that in years to come he’ll have a finger in a fair few pies. When Felix Lowe retires, he plans to take up cycling