Felix Lowe

As Al­berto Con­ta­dor bids adios, Felix Lowe pon­ders the re­tire­ment op­tions for the sport’s big names

Cyclist - - Contents -

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

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