Thomas Dekker has announced his immediate retirement from cycling. The 30-year-old Dutchman said that he has ‘quit cycling’ via his personal website on Friday, stating that he has ‘realised that there is more in life than winning bike races’.
“For weeks I’ve been thinking about it. I have pondered, I’ve weighed my thoughts carefully, I oversaw the options and considered them one by one,” Dekker wrote. “I’ve listened to my mind and to my heart. Now I have made up my mind.
“I quit cycling.”
Dekker found himself without a professional contract after the Garmin-Sharp and Cannondale teams merged for the 2015 season. He put in an attempt on the world Hour Record in Mexico on February 25, but came up short of beating Rohan Dennis’s record. It would turn out to be his final hour in the saddle.
“I’ve experienced a lot as a cyclist. I’ve won and I’ve lost, I fell and stood up again. I learned a lot – mostly about myself. I’ve seen all sides of the coin: the front and the back, but also the ragged edges on the sides,” said Dekker.
“As a young professional, I wanted one thing: winning bicycle races. And preferably as much as possible. I wanted to win at all costs. That was my strength, and at the same time it was the trap I fell into; it has taken me far and let me sink deep.”
In the mid-2000s Dekker was touted as one of the most promising young talents. As an under-23 rider he took the Olympia’s Tour and Tour de Normandie (2004), and was signed as a fully-fledged professional by the Dutch Rabobank team in 2005. He won Tirreno-Adriatico in 2006 and the Tour de Romandie in 2007, and rode in all three Grand Tours.
However, all was not well. Dekker was one of the first riders to be caught by the UCI’s biological passport system, which showed anomalies in his blood readings. In 2009 it was announced that he had failed an anti-doping test for banned blood booster EPO on a re-tested sample taken in 2007 when he was riding for Rabobank. He was handed a two-year ban and admitted that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs.
He was controversially given a lifeline by the Chipotle-Garmin development team after his ban expired in 2011, and moved to the Garmin WorldTour team in 2012. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he never regained the form that he showed before his ban and his final victory was a stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe in 2012.
“My last hour as a cyclist I gave it my all in Mexico, during the attack on the world record. I wanted to prove I can still ride fast, and also I wanted to know whether I still want to be a cyclist. The answer now, a few weeks after the attack on the record, is clear to me.
“My whole life up to now was dominated by cycling – but I do not want to depend on my form, my equipment, my team, anyone or anything any longer. My cycling career was beautiful, ugly, intense and edifying.
“I’m ready for a new step. Without my bike.”