Pernille Mathiesen retires at 24 saying: 'I’ve been struggling with mental health and an eating disorder'

Danish rider is hoping to find enjoyment in other areas of her life, after terminating her contract with Cofidis

Pernille Mathiesen
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cofidis rider Pernille Mathiesen has retired from professional cycling at just 24-years-old, citing the lack of enjoyment she has experienced in the sport amid mental health struggles and an eating disorder.

Mathiesen candidly discussed the reasons for her retirement in an strikingly open Instagram post (opens in new tab). She said she found it difficult enjoying cycling in a professional environment, with the pressures ultimately causing her to struggle both mentally and physically.  

The 24-year-old is an accomplished time trial rider, finishing second for three years in a row at the Danish National Championships ITT between 2017 and 2019. She also came second in the Women Juniors World Championships time trial in 2014, but, in 2017, Mathiesen won both the road race and the time trial at the European U23 Road Championships.

For the Danish rider, stepping away from the professional side of the sport is an attempt to find happiness in other areas of her life.

"I have decided to stop my career as a professional cyclist, after a long time not finding joy and motivation in riding my bike at professional level," Mathiesen said. "I had a hope that it would be a period of time and that the joy and motivation would come back, but that’s not the case.

"I’ve also been struggling with mental health and an eating disorder because of the massive focus on body composition there is in the sport."

A post shared by Pernille Mathiesen (@pernillemathiesen_) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

Mathiesen started her professional career in 2016 with Team BMS BIRN (now Virtu Cycling Women). Her only senior career win came while riding for Team BMS BIRN at the 2016 Gracia Orlova, a UCI 2.2 race held in Czech Republic. 

After moving to Team Sunweb and spending three season with the team, Mathiesen then joined Jumbo-Visma women's team for 2021. 

In September 2021, the Danish rider then signed for Cofidis Women Team, where she has started just two races, at Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem. After deciding to retire from professional racing just nine months into a two-year contract with the team, Mathiesen thanked them for the support and understanding they have shown.

"It’s been a really hard decision to take. Cycling always been a huge part of my life and Identity. I started racing when I was eight years old and been ongoing for 16 years. I’ve been professional for six years, on my absolutely dream teams… Virtu, Sunweb, Jumbo-Visma and Cofidis and I am thankful for all the experiences I got and all the people I’ve meet. 

"I am proud of my achievements, my results through the years and I am really proud of this decision I took to focus on my overall health. I also want to thank Team Cofidis for their understanding and handling of this situation. I signed a 2 years contract with the team in September and breaking the contract with a great team before time haven’t been easy."

She added: "It’s now time to find joy in other things in life, because nothing is worth not being happy."

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Staff Writer

Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.