Heading into the Italian classics week in early October always has an end-of-term feel to it. This year was clearly different as it wasn’t just the end of the season but the end of my career, something that I am still not entirely sure has registered. The feelings were different saying goodbye to my wife and kids this time; easier somehow knowing that this was the last time.

These races had always held a special place in my heart right back to showing my first glimmer of monument potential when I finished eighth in il Lombardia 2009. The build up to the week of racing and indeed these final three days of competitio­n highlighte­d and clarified in my head just why I had come to the difficult decision to stop. I had loved training, pushing myself to the limit, still enjoying the process of building up to an objective. But from the very first kms of Giro dell’Emilia, the ducking and diving through tight cities lined with parked cars, the perilous gravel strewn descents and the increasing­ly higher speeds we now travel at... somehow I just saw more risk everywhere. I still finished sixth despite not having the best legs, drawing on tenacity and experience to end up with a fine result, which once more encouraged many a conversati­on suggesting I was mad to stop as I was still so good. But I’ve been 14 years a pro, 17 if you add my La Pomme Marseille time when I was effectivel­y living as a pro. It’s a long time in any job, and it’s time for change.

I tried to ignore the elephant in the room in Italy. I wanted to focus on the racing and not distract from team performanc­e, something that I managed until the team showed up at dinner the night before Lombardia with a huge ‘happy retirement’ cake and some bottles of Prosecco. It really touched me how much the team valued me not just as a rider but as a person and it made it even harder to step away. I was emotional at sign-on the next morning, and I shed a tear or two at that moment, but once more, when the race started I just didn’t enjoy it. The pace was super high all day, up and down the climbs. I had no idea what emotions would hit me at the finish line, but as I rolled in, five minutes down on the winner having been good but not great, a feeling of relief washed over me. No longer did I need to hold the wheel in front through the burning of lactic acid going up a hill, or push the limits on the way down the other side. It remains to be seen how I will feel once the season restarts and I am no longer on the start line, but sitting here now I am incredibly content with my decision and excited for what the future holds.

 ?? ?? The moment Dan’s career as a pro cyclist ended, and he receives the plaudits of his peers
The moment Dan’s career as a pro cyclist ended, and he receives the plaudits of his peers
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