Is Rigoberto Urán really 'too old' to race his bike?

As the Colombian weighs up retirement age 37, we look at those who carried on despite their age, often with great success

Rigoberto Uran at the 2022 Itzulia Basque Country
(Image credit: Getty Images / Ion Alcoba / Quality Sport)

Rigoberto Urán has said that he is "too old" for bike racing, as he weighs up the decision to retire after the Paris Olympic Games.

He announced that intention last year, but the EF Education-EasyPost rider has since been offered a further two-year contract by an unnamed team. He's considering it, but as he told Colombian outlet Canal RCN, "I don't make that decision alone, there are a number of things that I have to look at with my family and the team."

He is afraid of falling off, he says, and adds: "The truth is that I am already too old for the sport.”

Urán, who has just turned 37, has been a pro cyclist since 2006 when he signed for the Irish second-tier Tenax-Salmilano team. Over the course of what will be a 19-season career at the end of this one, he has won stages in all three Grand Tours as well as finishing second in the Tour de France and second in the Giro d'Italia twice. He also has an Olympic Games silver from London 2012 in the trophy drawer.

No one could argue that a rest now would be well-earned. But is he really too old for cycling?

Even in an era that has seen a host of super-successful, very young riders, the form book would suggest not – that the old guys, and girls, can still rule. All bodies are different, some feel the effects of aging earlier than others, but there are certainly examples to suggest that form continues past 37.

Take last year's Giro d'Italia, where Geraint Thomas very nearly won overall despite advancing years – although the fact that he lost the maglia rosa two days after turning 37 doesn't make it the perfect example.

In the Vuelta a España, the USA's Chris Horner set a new old-guy record in 2012, winning overall as he approached his 42nd birthday. And Alejandro Valverde won the World Championship road race in 2018 in Innsbruck at 38, after spending his career coming so near and yet so far away from that elusive top podium step.

In the women's WorldTour, Annemiek Van Vleuten continued to be a dominant rider right up to her retirement, winning the points, mountains and overall in the Giro Donne plus three stages in her final season aged 40.

Sprinters, who rely on the fast-twitch muscles and devil-may-care bravery, both of which age is a famous thief, can still do exceptionally well in later years. Take Mark Cavendish, who made a stunning comeback aged 36 to win the green jersey in the Tour de France – and even Sir Chris Hoy, who was the same age when he won his last Olympic medals in the keirin and team sprint at London 2012.

There is more to racing in cycling team that simply winning. As one of the older guard who has been there, won that, a rider can act as a road captain, a talisman and an inspiration to younger riders. That's no small role.

Physically, Urán is almost certainly not too old to continue racing. But if he is thinking about falling off and the pressures it places on his family, that becomes academic. These are the thoughts that alter the sport from a fitness quest to a mind game and usually mean retirement isn't far off. 

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