‘Closer than team-mates’: Mark Cavendish pays tribute to Bernhard Eisel as legendary lead-out rider retires

After a 19-year career, Eisel is leaving the peloton

(Image credit: Corbis via Getty Images)

Mark Cavendish has paid emotional tribute to his faithful lead-out rider and friend Bernhard Eisel, who has announced his retirement.

Eisel, now 38, is leaving the peloton after a 19-year career that saw him support Cavendish to countless victories.

The Austrian announced his retirement on social media on Tuesday (January 14), saying he had “lived his dream” since signing his first pro contract in 2001.

Cavendish said: “Genuinely cried reading this. Closer than team-mates, closer than friends, we’re brothers. I could never win an argument with you, but I could never win anywhere near the races I have without you.

“Thank you for all you’ve done for me, the peloton and cycling. Love you mate.”

Eisel’s career included 12 Tour de France starts – he finished every one – and victory in the 2010 Ghent-Wevelgem where he beat Sep Vanmarcke, Philippe Gilbert and George Hincapie.

He estimates he race more than 1,300 times and took 15 victories during the span.

But it as Cavendish’s friend and lieutenant that Eisel will be best remembered, the pair first becoming team-mates at T-Mobile in 2007.

They went on to ride together at HTC-High Road, Team Sky and Dimension Data, where Eisel spent the last four years of his career.

Eisel says he will remain a part of the sport, but has not yet revealed in what capacity.

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In July last year, Cavendish’s other faithful lead-out rider Mark Renshaw announced he would be leaving the sport at the end of the 2019 season.

Australian Renshaw called time on his professional career after 16 seasons, in which his contributed to 19 of Cavendish’s 30 Tour de France stage victories.

Renshaw said one of his fondest memories was finishing second to team-mate Cavendish on the Champs-Élysées on the final day of the 2009 Tour de France.

Cavendish's career continues as he has moved from Dimension Data to Bahrain-McLaren to team up with his old mentor Rod Ellingworth, who has taken over as team principal.

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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.