The “R” Word
ALLEZ - Jose Vicente ‘JV’ Araneta (The Freeman) - August 26, 2019 - 12:00am

If you looked at the physique of 31yo Marcel Kittel, you wouldn’t think that he was a professional cyclist. He looked more like Rob Gronkowski, and he looks like  Rob Gronkowski! “Gronk” is a recently retired tight end for the current Super Bowl Champions, the New England Patriots. In the land of the 140-150 pounders, a 182-pounder is a giant. The sight of this German in the last kilometer was a sight to behold. His power was that you’d feel that he’d destroy his bicycle beyond repair after every sprint. This powerful sprint brought him 14 Tour de France stages from 2013-17

Last week, Kittel announced his retirement from cycling for good, in spite of the fact that he resigned from his team early in the season.

Sprinters in professional cycling are like running backs in the NFL- they have short careers.  While some sprinters enjoy long careers, like Johan Museeuw, they know how to reinvent themselves. Museeuw, in the last half of his career, became a specialist in one day races and had tremendous success making him known more as classics rider than a sprinter. Unfortunately, Kittel could not do that. Pressure from his team, Katusha-Alpecin ( a very disappointing team the past years) and from the German public was too much to bear.

But Kittels dramatic downfall was fast and at the same time, the sprinter’s carousel spins as fast. Fernando Gaviria looked like he would dominate forever when he handily beat Kittel in recess last year. This year, Gaviria is out of sight replaced by Italian Elia Viviani. It would be interesting if Viviani can keep his form for 2020.

Interesting, the three riders rode for the same team, Quick Step, during their dominance: 2017 for Kittel, 2018 for Gaviria and this year, Viviani. I can conclude that Quick Step therefore has this innate ability to find new pieces to replace a still good piece.

While I don’t know the personal life of Kittel and what led to his decision, the official statement from his camp released this statement:

“Can I and do I want to continue to make the sacrifices needed to be a world-class athlete? And my answer is: No, I do not want that any more, because I have always found the limitations on a top athlete as an increasing loss of quality of life.  The sport and the world you live in are defined by pain. You don’t have time for family and friends, and then there’s the perpetual tiredness and routine. As a cyclist, you are on the road for 200 days of the year. I didn’t want to watch my son grow up via Skype”.

Most successful athletes have tried to continue even if the passion and love for their game is no longer there. The list long and I’m glad and sad at the same time that Kittel decided to pull the plug in his own terms. We all go through tough patches in our work but luckily for me, I have never felt the burnout nor the hatred of my job. I hope the time won’t come soon. I wish Kittel the best in his retirement.

CYCLIST
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