Marcel Kittel: ‘There’s no shame in change’

Sprinting icon Marcel Kittel reveals the reasons behind his retirement – and why cycling needs to open up about the extreme pressures endured by riders

(Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Few bike riders in the history of the sport have been as fast as Marcel Kittel. But after racking up 14 Tour de France stages and 89 professional wins, his early retirement in August last year, aged just 31, left many fans in a state of confused disappointment. Why was one of the greatest sprinters ever hanging up his racing wheels while still in his prime? Now, one year on, Kittel has opened up to CW about his decision – with important insights for us all, racers and armchair critics alike. 

“Most people, 99 per cent of those who’ve not been a pro, cannot understand the sport and everything it involves. It is such an extreme sport and what it does to you physically and mentally,” Kittel tells me over the phone. “Pro cycling is the only sport that takes fatigue to such extremes. That’s the whole concept of the sport, but it makes it extremely difficult to handle.”

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Chris Marshall-Bell

A freelance sports journalist and podcaster, you'll mostly find Chris's byline attached to news scoops, profile interviews and long reads across a variety of different publications. He has been writing regularly for Cycling Weekly since 2013. In 2024 he released a seven-part podcast documentary, Ghost in the Machine, about motor doping in cycling.

Previously a ski, hiking and cycling guide in the Canadian Rockies and Spanish Pyrenees, he almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains. He lives in Valencia, Spain.