‘Cycling is beautiful but professional sport is another story’: Marcel Kittel on his decision to retire at 31

The German sprinter offers more insight into his decision to leave the pro peloton

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Marcel Kittel has shared more of his motivation for retiring from pro racing at 31.

The German powerhouse stepped away from the sport this summer, having struggled to find both motivation and results in recent seasons.

Kittel has been up front about his reasons for retiring, saying you have to invest everything into the bike to succeed.

In an interview with Spanish newspaper Marca at the Saitama Criterium, Kittel said: “Cycling is a beautiful sport, but professional sport is another story. You have to be very strong mentally to be able to withstand so much pressure.”

He added: “This is the most difficult sport in the world.

“You are tired all the time, in pain, and that has a very high cost.

“I felt like my head was going to explode.”

Kittel, the winner of 14 Tour de France stages, made the move to Katusha-Alpecin in 2018 but was never able to reach former heights.

During his two seasons with Katusha, Kittel won just three races – two stages of Tirreno-Adriatico last year and Trofeo Palma in February.

In May, Kittel and his team announced he had quit Katusha and would be taking a break from cycling, followed by the announcement in August that he was retiring altogether.

With a child on the way, Kittel said he didn’t want to watch his son grow up on Skype. He is now studying and says he had plans to establish a business.

Kittel is one of a handful of riders announcing retirement in 2019 during what should be their peak.

>>> Sunweb exodus continues as Tom Dumoulin’s trainer leaves team

After a being one of the most anticipated young talents in recent history, Taylor Phinney has announced his retirement at 29 after a career plagued by injury.

Former British champion Adam Blythe is also leaving the sport at 30, with the intention of spending more time with his family but continuing his involvement in cycling in another way.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.