Masks and bubbles became the new normal for professional riders in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic that wreaked havoc this season. In some cases, the time away from travelling, training and competing gave riders a new perspective on earning a living and presented new life options.
Some riders had already entered 2020 as a last hurrah to make a breakaway or crest a climb as a professional.
While riders who have decided to retire in 2020 may not pin a number on next season, they’re nevertheless likely to keep using their cleats and wheels for fun instead of a fight.
Here are 11 women from the pro peloton who are calling it a career, with a look at what they have achieved and what some have planned.
At the end of September, just as pro racing resumed after the COVID-19 summer suspension, American standout Katie Hall announced on social media that she was making a career move, retiring from life as a professional cyclist to pursue a physical therapy degree at the University of Washington.
“Starting a big new thing tomorrow! PT School at the University of Washington,” she wrote. “It was commuting in Seattle that got me into cycling and I’m stoked to retire from pro cycling and return to bike commuting. If you’re a Seattle cyclist, and you see me zipping around town, give me a wave! And if you’ve got pain or poor movement on the bike, call me in three years when I graduate.”
Hall is one of the most accomplished American cyclists in the past decade, with a career that covered seven years, riding for US team UnitedHealthcare and Dutch squad Boels Dolmans.
In 2018, she swept the GC titles at the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race, the Tour of the Gila, and the Joe Martin Stage Race. She called California “the biggest win of my career yet”, as she took the crown in her hometown of Sacramento. It was also at the California race that she won stages in 2015, 2017 and 2019, and finished second overall in the two latter years.
Moving to Boels Dolmans in 2019, she was also seventh overall at the Giro Rosa and eighth overall at the Colorado Classic that season. In 2020, she scored second place on a stage at the early season Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in Spain, and then, with racing suspended for months, the 33-year-old set an Everesting record for women in May on the Bonny Doon ascent outside of Santa Cruz, California.
After nine seasons racing professionally – with eight of those for Mitchelton-Scott – Australian Gracie Elvin is calling it a career following this season.
Elvin’s career highlights began in 2012, riding for the Faren-Honda Italian team, with whom she won the road race title at the Oceania Championships and took silver in the time trial. Moving to Mitchelton-Scott, the Canberra native took back-to-back Australian road race titles in 2013 and 2014.
Elvin won a stage at the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt in Germany in 2015 and took two victories at Belgian Classic Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik in 2015 and 2016, as well as second place there in 2018. In 2017, she scored second place at the Tour of Flanders.
“With the break in racing this year, I was able to step away from my usual routines and realise that my values have shifted and no longer align with the demanding lifestyle of pro cycling,” the 32-year-old wrote in a retirement letter published on the team website.
“It has given me so many amazing years, and I am so glad I chased my dreams for so long. When I look back on my palmarès I can see so much to be proud of, but I think I’m most proud of how I did it.”
From riding a penny farthing as a young girl to racing a rather sleeker road bike to capture two world crowns and a title at a UCI stage race, Lucy van der Haar has accomplished a lot with a bicycle. At just 26 years of age, the Briton announced in September that the 2020 season would be her final ride as a pro, completing the last two years with Hitec Products-Birk.
Van der Haar (née Garner) stormed onto the scene with back-to-back junior road race titles at the World Championships in 2011 and 2012. In a recent interview on the Something for the Turbo podcast, she said she was “most proud of the second world championship, as it is tough to defend”. She recalled that the subsequent transition from junior to pro racing was tough, mentally and physically, but said it “made me a good team player”.
She was consistent, with a string of top 10s in her career, including third place at the 2014 Dwars door de Westhoek, a stage win at the 2015 Route de France and second place at the 2016 Women’s Tour de Yorkshire.
She closed her career by winning the overall title and the points classification at the inaugural Dubai Women’s Tour in February. She had won stage 1 and briefly held the leader’s jersey before reclaiming it on the final day.
Van der Haar started her own salon in the Netherlands a year ago and will work there part-time. She also said that she’s looking forward to riding her cyclo-cross bike and doing some motor-pacing for her husband, pro cyclist Lars van der Haar.
A Belgian champion on the road and track (points race) in 2018, Annelies Dom announced in January that the 2020 season would be her last after eight years as a pro. The 34-year-old started in 2013 with Team Futureumshop.nl-Polaris, which became Lensworld-Kuota, and will finish her career after five seasons with Lotto Soudal Ladies.
In addition to her two national titles in 2018, Dom took third at the Salverda Omloop van de IJsseldelta and was second in the mountains classification at the Lotto Belgium Tour. The following year, Dom took bronze in the time trial at the Belgian National Championships and a top 10 at the Danilith Nokere Koerse. At her final Nationals events in 2020, she finished fifth in both the road race and the TT.
The 2018 Australian road race national champion, Shannon Malseed was not able to line up for the 2020 National Championships in January due to a heavy crash the week before in the second race at the Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits. The 25-year-old TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank rider suffered a fractured scapula, some spinal damage and a head injury as a result of the crash, which was caused by a touch of wheels on the final lap of racing.
She has since recovered, and managed 11 race days after the sport’s restart following the coronavirus shutdown, racing La Course, the Tour de l’Ardèche, Flèche Wallonne, the Brabanste Pijl, and Gent Wevelgem.
However, she announced on her new podcast that she was “less passionate about racing bikes and more passionate about helping people,” and launched her next career as a human-potential coach.
During her racing career, Malseed won the 2016 road race title at the Oceania Continental Championships. In 2018, she won her country’s road race crown wearing the new colours of TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank and went on to take seventh overall at the Women’s Tour Down Under and second overall at the Tour of Chongming Island. The next year she was second on the GC at the Joe Martin Stage Race.
After 13 years in the pro peloton, Marta Tagliaferro is calling it a career. In 2019, she won the Omloop van de IJsseldelta and the first stage in the Tour de Feminin, and then took sixth place overall at the Tour of Chongming Island. Prior to the lockdown due to the coronavirus, she was part of the team to help teammate Lucy van der Haar take the overall victory at the inaugural Dubai Women’s Tour.
Early in her career as a sprinter, Tagliaferro had top-10 GC results at the Trophée d’Or Feminin in 2012, the Tour of Chongming Island in 2010 and 2014, and second place on stage 3 of the 2016 Giro Rosa behind Australian sprinter Chloe Hosking.
The 31-year-old Italian raced for Hitec Products-Birk in 2019 along with Van der Haar. Both riders would continue for a second year on the Norwegian squad, resulting in retirement for both of them. When she renewed her contract for 2020, Tagliaferro noted: “The trust of the team helped me to get the results. I am a happy ‘oldie’ rider, with a feeling as if I am riding my bike for the first time.”
Reis is a nine-time Portuguese national champion on the road, beginning with her first gold medal in the individual time trial in 2013, and then sweeping the TT and road disciplines in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019. She rode for smaller UCI teams in her career, ending this past season with Ciclotel – a UCI Continental team based in Belgium. The pandemic-shortened season saw her racing only UCI events in the spring, but she was seventh in the mountains classification at the 2020 Dubai Women’s Tour in February.
In March, while riding her bike in Sarge, at home in Portugal, a car crossed in front her on a descent and struck her, sending the 27-year-old to hospital with a broken scapula, ribs, two vertebrae and a collapsed lung. She said that the time she spent in hospital as a result “felt like a lifetime”, and is expected to recover.
“Everything in life has a beginning and an end. It was 10 years of dreams, sacrifices, struggles, commitment, suffering, the will to win. And I won many times. Today, I put an end to my career, proud of all the experiences that cycling has provided me over these 10 years,” Reis posted on social media last week in her native Portuguese.
Two-time mountain bike world champion in the cross-country eliminator discipline (2014, 2017), Kathrin Stirnemann was part of the now-defunct Equipe Paule Ka team in 2020. She’s hanging up the cleats from competitive road and mountain biking at the end of the year, having turned pro in 2012.
The 31-year-old took two podiums this year in road racing: a silver at the European Continental Championships in the mixed-relay team time trial, and a bronze in the time trial at the Swiss National Championships.
Stirnemann excelled in cross-country mountain biking, taking the bronze at the World Cup in Albstadt, Germany, and a silver in the cross country Swiss championships last year. In October 2020, she took the silver in the women’s UCI E-MTB Cross-country World Championships. On her journey to the E-MTB Worlds in Leogang, Austria, Stirneman said on her Instagram feed: “I never thought E-MTB racing would be that much fun, even if it was bloody hard, too.”
Shara Marche (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope)
A three-time Oceania time trial champion, in 2011, 2012, 2014, Shara Marche (née Gillow) has now decided to call it a day. In 2011, she was a double-medalist at the Oceania Championships, winning the road race and the time trial. That same year, she signed her first pro contract to ride for UCI Continental team Bizkaia-Durango.
From there, she had multi-year stints with bigger UCI teams – Orica-AIS, Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling, and then the past four years with FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, which was elevated to Women’s WorldTour status this season.
During her years with the FDJ team, she was a consistent all-around performer. In 2017, her first year on the FDJ team, she had five top 10s at WorldTour races, including fifth at La Course, fifth at Flèche Wallonne and sixth at Strade Bianche. In January, the 32-year-old finished 12th on the GC at the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under, and followed it up with 15th overall at the Tour de l’Ardèche.
Kaat Hannes (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport)
Due to an injury, Kaat Hannes, 29, announced this year that she would end her 10-year pro racing career, saying on social media: “With a heavy heart [I’m retiring]. It’s a pity to have to stop like this, but my health comes first.”
The Belgian road race national champion in 2016, Hannes began racing as a junior in 2008 when she was seventh in the junior women’s road race at the European Championships, and then competed at the Worlds. In 2011, she signed with her first UCI pro team, Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012, and had two top-five results, on stage 5 of Gracia-Orlova and at the one-day Knokke-Heist–Bredene.
Riding for the Belgian national team at the 2018 Gracia-Orlova, Hannes won stage 5 at the 2.2-ranked Czech Republic stage race, and with club team Jos Feron Lady Force she had three top 10s at the Lotto Belgium Tour that same year.
In November, Asja Paladin confirmed that her racing career would come to a close, having ridden professionally since 2013.
“It was nice. But don’t worry, the bike will always remain one of my greatest passions,” Paladin noted on social media.
The 26-year-old Italian was part of the Top Girls Fassa Bortolo team from 2013-2017, then rode with Valcar for two seasons. In 2020, she was part of Cronos Casa Dorada Women Cycling – a Spanish-based UCI Continental team. She raced the Giro Rosa six times, finishing consistently in the top 10 in the best young rider classification and 19th overall in 2018. That year, she also won the mountains classification at the Emakumeen XXXI Bira stage race, the year it moved to 2.WWT status, and was fourth in the mountains classification at the Festival Elsy Jacobs.