Tony Martin: 'Twice I was lying in the ambulance, the dad of two daughters, you start questioning if it’s really worth it'

In his last ever race, the German won gold in the Worlds mixed relay TT and afterwards reflected on a glittering career

Tony Martin
(Image credit: Getty)

Tony Martin has been speaking eloquently for around 10 minutes on the emotions surrounding the final day of his career:

How, on the start line, he was 100 per cent focused on winning, not thinking about retirement, but that afterwards in the tent, surrounded by his team-mates and competitors, and as it became clear he had won one final gold medal and rainbow jersey, the emotion stirred as the congratulations rose up around him.

"I chose the Worlds as my last day, the World Championships were in the past my personal highlight of the year," he explained. "I always enjoyed the atmosphere so much and in the Worlds I always had my biggest victories, I just loved to be in the Worlds and especially a World Championships in Belgium. I knew it would be a fantastic atmosphere, and with the support of Jumbo-Visma it would be the nicest way to say goodbye and what has come true [the rainbow jersey] I couldn't dream of any more."

The first TT world champion's jersey he won in 2011 will always rank as the biggest moment of his career, but he says today could be higher in terms of the emotion associated with it.

"It always takes a while after big victories to realise what happened, I think today and tonight I won't be too emotional in terms of my retirement, I will be emotional about my gold medal and also the gold medal of my colleagues. The emotions [around retiring] will come in the next days when I'm alone."

Martin has plans for his retirement. At the moment, all of his jerseys, medals and accolades are boxed up in his basement, but now he says he'll have the time to decorate his house with them.

More importantly, however, he'll have more time to spend with his family after more than a decade in the pro ranks. After 10 minutes of reminiscing, the conversation gets down to brass tacks, and the reason Martin is retiring is because he feels race safety is as bad as he's ever seen it. He's decided to "say goodbye before something really serious happens to me".

"It was a wish from me to put a better point on this issue," Martin says of bringing up the problem of race safety in the press release announcing his retirement. "It’s quite hard to be heard by the officials, especially in terms of race safety. 

"I started fighting for this a long time ago and what I can say now is that nothing changed, you see all the bad crashes that happen. There are more now than 10 years ago, it shows that nothing happens, more the opposite way [it's getting worse]. I can just ask the federations to keep an eye on it and work hard on this, it won't influence my career anymore but it will influence all the young riders that have wanted to ride their bike for many years and I hope something will change and we won't see these massive bad crashes anymore.

"Two times I was lying in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, full of blood and full of pain, at 36, and the dad of two daughters, you start questioning if it’s really worth it, what are you doing here? 

"For me, I just didn't feel safe in cycling anymore, to be honest. I'm older, and after a few bad crashes you start thinking [about it] more than the young guys, that’s for sure.

"Racing wasn't really fun for me anymore, always thinking about crashes, avoiding crashes, I think also in the way the riders ride the race, the way they take more risks, the way that finals start way earlier, that changed, and I really realised that racing doesn't make this fun anymore than when I started racing. I still have passion for cycling , training, time trialling, giving 100 per cent, but I had no passion anymore for taking risks in the races and that’s why I'll say goodbye now before something really serious happens to me. That’s the main reason. "

Martin rises out of his chair, starts walking down off the little stage set up in the Bruges concert hall to make his way home after his final race day. A round of applause erupts - maybe the heart of the press room and its inhabitants isn't made of stone at all!

He looks surprised, before smiling, raising his hand and waving, walking out of the room with the rainbow jersey on his back.

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.