The Statesmen of the Peloton
I’ve been reading Robbie McEwen’s autobiography “One Way Road” which has been fascinating on a few different levels. The book is a good reminder of the generation of riders still racing but are in the twilight of their careers. Most of them are acting as mentors for the younger riders and no longer getting the big wins. They’re far from being washed up, but in pro cycling, you are only as good as your last race. Robbie’s book takes you back and makes you remember how good these guys were in their prime.
Cam from CyclingIQ sent me a spreadsheet of all the 2012 professional riders along with each of their date of birth. There are 507 World Tour riders, 409 Pro Continental riders, and 1787 Continental riders. (find out how the structure of professional cycling works). That’s 2703 riders around the world with UCI professional licenses.
The oldest World Tour rider is Jens Voigt at 40yrs old (17/09/1971). He’s two years older than me, and in 1994 he had already won the Peace Race. Today we see Jens as this super-domestique hardman who can do some serious damage, but it’s easy to forget about incredibly good he was in his prime. It wasn’t that long ago where he was winning some of the biggest races on the professional scene. He’s won stages in the TdF and worn the yellow jersey twice, a Giro d’Itaila stage win, Critérium International 4 time winner…not to mention the selfless support he’s given to some of the most successful riders in the world. You might not ever see him win again, but never forget what he’s already done.
Robbie is the fourth oldest rider in the pro peloton at 39 years old. Throughout the past few years he’s been picking up the odd win but 2007 was his last season at his peak after 17 seasons. He sounds like he’s in a comfortable place in his life and is transitioning to a management role at GreenEDGE in a few months. However, you cannot forget his tremendous talent, work ethic and determination that allowed him to beat some of the best sprinters of the era including Abdoujaparov, Cipollini, Zabel, Kirsipuu, Pettachi. Even though Robbie isn’t winning the big races anymore, never forget how good he was back in the day. Respect.
Stuart O’Grady is another one of the statesmen of the peloton who is still capable of splitting the race to pieces, but is content being in a role where he’s not expected to get big wins. He takes the younger guys under his wing and lets them draw off his experience. He’s in the twilight of his career, but never forget what he achieved in his prime. It was only four years ago when he won Paris-Roubaix. What a legend.
Unlike O’Grady, McEwen, Hincapie, Jez Hunt and many others below, Vino isn’t exactly making a “graceful” exit from the sport. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching him race and think he was one of the most gutsy riders in the peloton. However, getting caught for doping, retiring, his strange antics, coming back from retirement, his strange antics, retiring, coming back from retirement….I’m beginning to feel sorry for him. However, he was absolutely thrilling to watch back in the day:
Top 20 Statesmen of the Peloton
I find this list of riders fascinating because they’re around the same age as I am. 36-38 years old. I couldn’t imagine living the hard life of being a pro cyclist at this age.
VOIGT Jens GER 17/09/71
GUESDON Frédéric FRA 14/10/71
HORNER Christopher USA 23/10/71
MCEWEN Robbie AUS 24/06/72
HINCAPIE George USA 29/06/73
O’GRADY Stuart AUS 6/08/73
VINOKUROV Alexandr KAZ 16/09/73
LEIPHEIMER Levi USA 24/10/73
PETACCHI Alessandro ITA 3/01/74
HONDO Danilo GER 4/01/74
HINAULT Sébastien FRA 11/02/74
HUNT Jeremy GBR 12/03/74
HORRACH RIPPOLL Juan ESP 27/03/74
TOSATTO Matteo ITA 14/05/74
BRUSEGHIN Marzio ITA 15/06/74
SPEZIALETTI Alessandro ITA 14/01/75
DEAN Julian NZL 28/01/75
SÖRENSEN Nicki DEN 14/05/75
GRABSCH Bert GER 19/06/75
KLÖDEN Andreas GER 22/06/75
The oldest rider with a professional license is currently Søren Petersen at 44 years of age (7/10/67). He rides with the continental team “J. Jensen – Sandstoed Salg Og Event“. Jaan Kirsipuu is registered with Champion Systems (a Pro-Conti team based in China) and is the second oldest professional rider at 42 years old. Jason Rigg racing with Genesys Wealth Advisors is also 42 years old.
Now, I’ve wasted most of the morning trying to find out the oldest cyclist ever to retire from the pro peloton. I remember reading about a guy back in the late 90’s who was in his mid 40’s. He was still wearing a leather hairnet style helmet and maybe a Lotto kit. Does anybody know? I’m stumped. Malcolm Elliot was 50 when he retired last year, so he may hold the record. Thanks to Above Category for pointing him out.
Just in case you’re interested, the youngest World Tour rider is Arnaud Demare (France) at 20yrs old (26/8/91). He was born the year I graduated from highschool and just about to enter my first year of Uni. He’s the U23 World Champion and last week he won the 6th stage of the Tour of Qatar. Michael Hepburn isn’t far behind. He’s only a few days older (17/08/1991) and is already making an impression.