‘I’m no longer tired enough to go to sleep at night’: Yoann Offredo opens up about depression following retirement

The Frenchman has opened up about his struggles after being forced to retire due to injury

Yoann Offredo has revealed he’s in “a bit of a depressive moment” as he adapts to life after professional cycling.

The Frenchman is contracted to Circus – Wanty Gobert until the end of the season but hasn’t raced since Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February, before the coronavirus lockdown.

With Ian Stannard forced into early retirement due to rheumatoid arthritis, Offredo is also climbing off the bike before he wants to, due to an ankle injury from early 2019 that he’s failed to fully recover from.

“Out of respect for everyone who has supported me, and to thank them for the great years with Française des Jeux and Wanty, I wanted to write to say I’m stopping but I wasn’t able to, I’m in denial,” Offredo said in an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe.

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The 33-year-old is brutally honest about the struggle of retiring from the sport and facing such a big change in his life.

“I used to hear people talk about the ‘small death’ when a rider retires, but for me that was abstract. When you’re racing, you have your head in the handlebars and blinkers on. I’d like to talk things through but I don’t have many people to do that with – I don’t necessarily have many friendships with other riders.”

He goes on to say how his situation isn’t uncommon, with both Pete Kennaugh and Marcel Kittel stopping last year due to depression, and that the topic is still taboo in the peloton.

“I’m in a bit of a depressive moment. Last year, Pete Kennaugh and Marcel Kittel stopped because of depression but that topic is still taboo,” Offredo said. “Most riders don’t express themselves, or they hide behind outward appearances. When I wake up in the morning I’m sad to not be in touch with my emotions. I just need to find a new goal in life.”

Offredo then reveals one of the more unexpected side effects of having to adjust to retirement is not been tired enough to sleep at night.

“I miss my legs hurting when I go upstairs after training. I used to spend around 30 hours per week on my bike. I’m no longer tired enough to get to sleep at night. At 3am I’m still awake and I’m asking myself questions. In the morning I’ve sometimes woken up in tears,” he says.

“I used to exist as a rider. I liked the pain, I liked being cold, I fell down and I got back up. But as a man, who am I? I feel like I’m bound to go through an almost self-destructive phase, put on 10-15 kilos, slump pretty low so as to then bounce back.”

Offredo may be planning to move into the media as his plan after retiring, working as a pundit for French television during this year’s Tour de France, not hiding his disdain when a breakaway failed to form on one stage, the Frenchman knowing if he was at the race he would have happily ridden out front all day.

Before arriving at Circus – Wanty Gobert in 2017, Offredo spent the first nine years of his professional career at Groupama-FDJ, where he earned enough benefits to be able to go to university, saying he might enrol to study for a masters degree in journalism.