The great majority of elite sportsmen and women face the challenge of life after their sporting careers have come to an end.
If you are lucky enough—or have simply put in the hard yards—to have made it big in one of the “A-list” disciplines that attract the mass support of the public—Tennis, Golf, Football, and Baseball for example—then it’s not such as issue. The moolah is substantial and is spread over a good portion of the field with a sizable number of the top ranking punters becoming multi-millionaires. In their post-sport career they’ll never want for much, materially anyway.
Not so if you happen to be good at—and because of this, dedicate your youth to—developing a talent for, say, the shotput, croquet, or the double trap. The main reward will probably be found purely in the event itself at some level. The pinnacle is most likely to be found in an Olympic squad and the winning of a medal—easier for a camel etc. on that one.
When it comes to pro cycling, quite apart from end-of-the-road scenario that must be faced, the road itself is fraught with peril. You pay your moneys, you takes your chances.
Mauricio Soler pictured here monstering up the Galibier, stamped his mark firmly on the 2007 Tour with this ride going on to clinch the polka dot jersey and finishing a not-at-all shabby 11th overall. A cracked wrist the next year put him out of the Tour and ushered in several bouts of illness and injury.
In the 2011 Tour de Suisse he wiped-out spectucularly at 80kmh whist occupying 2nd place overall. He is yet to fully recover from the injuries sustained. We would wish him the best in his recovery for what can only be labeled as an absolute tragedy.
Ricardo Ricco, or il Cobra as he quickly came to be known for his attacking style—which he believed should have won him the 2008 Giro over Contador—represents a fairly well-worn path out of the pro peloton. He might be the same age as Maurice Soler and his path might have led to the same place. But what a different road was traversed by each of them!
Ricardo blasts through the Col d’Aspin at the at the 2008 Tour on his way to his second stage win, only to eventually test positive and get turfed out.
Undaunted, he prepared a comeback following a two-year ban. Inspired by the hit series True Blood, he gave himself a blood transfusion resulting in his kidneys shutting down. It was only then that he remembered that the undead are still…dead and this sort of thing is the least of their worries.
His career ended in a 12 year doping ban because of this. Word is he can be reached in the hills of Romania, the setting for Bram Stoker’s classic tale of desire and immortality, although it was also rumored that a career as a barman beckoned as well. His infamy will probably result in a degree of immortality regardless, with people talking about the case for many years to come.
Robbie McEwen part of an ever increasing brood of talented cyclists—in depth and breadth—from down-under enjoyed a career commencing in 1992 and finishing up in the 2012 Tour of California, earning 12 stage wins in the Tour to fit well alongside his 12 starts, and three green jerseys in that event.
Robbie returns to the 2012 Tour as a sprint adviser to his former team, Orica-GreenEDGE. HIs job is to evaluate the final 5km of each stage that will be contested in a sprint finish.
He rides the route himself, several times, doubling back to recheck the approach to a particular section. (Robbie laments his busy lifestyle makes this about the only cycling he gets in these days). He takes different trajectories at different speeds through the bends and roundabouts, absorbing a heap of data that he can share with the team in order that they come up with a strategy to optimize their chances of taking a stage. “The guys get to feel as though they have been there themselves.”
The lads are reputed to have asked him, though, to go into more detail for that version of his advice based on having both wheels in contact with the tarmac at the same time.
Interestingly the transformation of the modern workplace means that a young person these days will likely have to change careers several times given increasingly rapid technological change. Whole job categories are coming and going almost as fast as global warming will produce an ice-free alps to witness future epic hauls through the great passes.
Long before he was a household name, Rod Stewart faced a decision. Did he choose elite-level soccer as a career path—apparently he was a pretty good with a ball—or punt on a life in rock music? You know his answer to that. He probably would have done just as well at soccer anyhow.
If you have an undeniable talent at this harsh business of professional road racing then you let the cycling gods lead you where they will. On average the rewards will be diffuse where only the handfull of stars, who generate the wealth not to have to worry about life beyond the pro ranks, eat cake in their post-pro lives.
If I was in a position to advise, it would be to always be on the lookout as to how you could leverage your experiences into a post-pro existence. Hindsight is always 20-20 it’s true, but getting into the habit of looking for pathways beyond your days in the saddle would surely leave you in a more advantageous position, notwithstanding the cruel throws of the die that can slam you down in a jiffy. But life is like that generally.
Now, speaking of wipeouts in another sport that also does not go overboard when it comes to rewarding its practitioners, have a look at this. The terror really begins 38 seconds in.
Despite the apparently suicidal nature of this sporting passion carried on over an extremely shallow razor-sharp reef, there is more to be feared in the pro peloton than a pummelling at the hands of nature at this remote outpost in Tahiti.