Seven retiring riders we’ll miss seeing in the women’s peloton

As the 2016 road season has come to an end, cyclists return to their homes for some vacation before preparing for the next season again. Some cyclists, however, will not be returning to the peloton next year, using the end of an Olympic year as an opportune time to call…

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As the 2016 road season has come to an end, cyclists return to their homes for some vacation before preparing for the next season again. Some cyclists, however, will not be returning to the peloton next year, using the end of an Olympic year as an opportune time to call it quits and head into retirement.

This year we’re saying goodbye to the following seven well-known athletes. Their friendly faces and contributions to our sport will be sorely missed next year.

Iris Slappendel

UHC Iris Slappendel Cor Vos

Professional years

2004-2006: Vrienden van het Platteland
2007-2009: Team Flexpoint
2010: Cervélo Test Team
2011: Team Garmin-Cervélo
2012: Rabobank Women Team
2013-2014: Rabobank-Liv
2015: Bigla Pro Cycling
2016: UnitedHealthcare

Biggest wins
Stage in Thüringen Rundfahrt (2010)
Open de Suede Vårgårda team time trial (2010) with the Cervélo Test Team
Open de Suede Vårgårda road race (2012)
GC Comune di Cornadero (2012
Stage in Route de France (2014)
Dutch national road race championships (2014)
Sprint classification in the World Cup (2014)

What she was known for
As a domestique, she may not have many victories on her palmares, but the ones she has are all from prestigious races. She was a hard worker, always giving it her best for team wins. She spent the final year in the peloton as race captain with the American UnitedHealthcare team, mentoring the younger riders as they raced in Europe.

It was a role fitting for her and her personality, and she was much appreciated within the team for that.

“Iris was a great addition to the 2016 UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, both on and off the bike. On the bike, her European race experience, especially that in Holland and Belgium, became a huge asset as the team made it’s first full campaign in the Spring Classics. On this side of the pond, she really seemed to enjoy life in the US and her aggressive style of racing was well suited to the US criterium scene,” said UnitedHealthcare Sports Director Rachel Heal.

“Off the bike, Iris brought a great sense of humor to the team.  Her infectious laugh is uplifting and added entertainment to any team gathering.”
What we’ll miss about her
Slappendel’s funny and quirky character made her unique in the bunch. Always in for a laugh, but never letting it interfere with the job at hand.


Retirement plans
Slappendel is a graphic designer and has her own company. She designed the jerseys for the 2014 an 2015 World Cup series and the Dutch outfit for the Rio Olympics. She’ll surely continue to design wonderful outfits and further expand her business.

Mara Abbott

Mara Abbott (Wiggle-High5) leading the GC in the 2016 Giro Rosa.

Professional years

2007: Team Webcor
2008-2009: Team Columbia Women
2011: Diadora Pasta Zara
2013: Exergy Twenty16
2014: United Healthcare
2015: Wiggle-Honda
2016: Wiggle-High5

Biggest wins
American national road race championships (2007 & 2010)
GC Tour of the Gila (2007, 2010, 2013-2016)
7 Stages in the Giro Rosa (2009, 2010, 2013, 2015  & 2016)
Mountain classification in the Giro Rosa (2009)
Giro Rosa GC (2010 & 2013)
GP de Oriente (2014)
GC Vuelta a el Salvador (2014)

What she was known for
Abbott was known as one of the best climbers in the world,  having won the Giro Rosa twice, taking the mountain classification and seven stages in the most important women’s stage race on the calendar as well. Given its hilly nature, Abbott’s favourite race to ride was the Tour of the Gila, which she won an impressive six times.

What we’ll miss about her
She has shown a fighting spirit throughout her career. Not just in races, but also in battling anorexia nervosa – and returning to the highest level in women’s cycling to win her second Giro Rosa.

The most recent display of fighting spirit was shown in her last race, the Rio Olympics, where she rode the TT of her life to keep a chasing trio behind her. It was a most heart-breaking finale for the American rider, which she so strikingly described in the Wall Street Journal: “Little kid dreams: Getting interviewed for Sports Illustrated. … Adult reality: The interview ends up being for a Sports Illustrated article about finishing fourth at the Olympics.” It’s not missing the podium that she will be remembered for though, it’s for fighting for gold and inspiring a nation doing it.

Retirement plans
A gifted writer, Abbott told The Guardian that she wants to become an investigative environmental journalist after retiring from pro cycling. It is in line with her activities over the last winter, when she worked on an organic farm and sold vegetables at Boulder farmers’ market to complement her cycling wages.

Emma Johansson


Professional years

2005 & 2006: Bizkaia-Panda Software-Durango
2007: Vlaanderen-Caprisonne-T interim
2008: AA Cycling Team
2011 & 2012: Team Hitec
2013-2015: Orica-AIS
2016: Wiggle-High5

Biggest wins
Ronde van Drenthe World Cup (2009)
Thüringen Rundfahrt GC (2011, 2013, 2015)
Swedish national road race championships (2010-2012, 2014-2016)
Trophée d’Or Feminin (2011 & 2012)
Swedish national time trial championships (2012-2016)
UCI world ranking (2013)
Euskal Emakumeen Bira GC (2013 & 2016)
Trofeo Alfredo Binda World Cup (2014)
Boels Rental Hills Classic (2014)
Swedish national cyclocross championships (2014)
Lotto Belgium Tour GC (2015)

What she was known for
Always a podium candidate,  Johansson’s career has been a tale of seconds. She came in runner-up in two Olympic road races (Beijing in 2008, and Rio in 2016),  at the 2013 UCI Road World Championships, and four time in the UCI World Cup series overall.  She also has three bronze world championship medals, and numerous national titles.

What we’ll miss about her
Johansson has been living in Belgium for so long, that she now almost sounds like a native Flemish speaker. Additionally, she is also fluent in Spanish, English and Norwegian. Smart, well-spoken and multilingual, she was always willing to tell her story – even if she was disappointed after losing a race.

But ever since turning pro, Johansson has been winning races or finished on the podium of several races each year. She was always right there at the front, fighting for the victory. She always counted as a favourite for all the Spring Classics and hilly races. We will need some time to adjust not having to line her up as a favourite anymore!

Retirement plans
In a CyclingTips interview after signing with Wiggle-High5, she expressed her wish to start a family.

Joanne Kiesanowski

Jo Kiesanowski

Professional years

2001: Proctor & Gamble
2002 & 2003: Diet Rite
2005: Nobili Rubinetterie-Menikini-Cogeas
2006: Univega Pro Cycling
2007: Raliegh-Lifeforce
2008: Cervélo-Lifeforce
2009-2016: Team Tibco

Biggest wins
Stage in Thüringen Rundfahrt (2005)
Stage in Tour de l’Aude (2006)
Stage in la Grande Boucle Feminine (2006)
Stage in Ronde van Drenthe (2006)
Rund um den Bühler (2008)
Stage in Tour de Bretagne (2008)
Stage in Joe Martin Stage Race (2009)
Stage in Cascade Classic (2010)

What she was known for
Having won stages in the two big French stage races from the good old days, Joanne Kiesanowski has been there throughout the years that both saw those wonderful races, the Tour de l’Aude and la Grande Boucle Feminine disappear, but also witnessed women’s cycling developing into a professional part of the cycling sport.

Kiesanowski welcomed the re-introduction of the Women’s World Tour races alongside some of the biggest men’s races. “This gives women the ability to race in front of big crowds, lucrative sponsors and a huge television audience. For me, it’s always been extremely motivating racing in these major races and it’s something I’ll miss!” she admitted in an interview on the Team Tibco website.

The New Zealand rider has been representing American Team Tibco during her last nine years as a pro rider and combined both track and road, something which she is very proud of: “I’m most proud of being able to race on both the road and the track at the very highest level and race them both at the Olympic Games, with a 7th place in London 2012 [in the omnium]. Winning a silver medal on the track [in the scratch race] in the Commonwealth Games was also a highlight,” says Kiesanowski.

Retirement plans
“I decided I was content and ready for life after racing,” Kiesanowski explained. “I don’t have any plans to keep racing but who knows, I might find it fun to race the odd criterium and some track.”

In any case, she will stay in cycling, as Kiesanowski and her husband “are developing a new brand and business focused on coaching, training and cycling adventures. I’ve been coaching a few athletes for one or two years, so with now having more time I’m looking forward to taking on some more clients and helping others reach their goals.”

Vera Koedooder

(l-r) Loes Gunnewijk, Vera Koedooder and Lucinda Brand atop the Omloop van Borsele podium.
(l-r) Loes Gunnewijk, Vera Koedooder and Lucinda Brand atop the Omloop van Borsele podium.

Professional years

2002: National selection U23
2003: BIK-Powerplate
2004: Ondernemers van Nature-Vrienden van het Platteland
2005 & 2006: Team Flexpoint
2007: Team DSB Bank
2008 & 2009: Lotto Belisol Ladies Team
2010: Batavus Ladies Team
2011: Specialized-DPD Pakketservice
2012 & 2013: Sengers Ladies Team
2014 & 2015: Bigla Pro Cycling
2016: Parkhotel Valkenburg

Biggest wins
Stage in the Trophée d’Or Feminin (2012)
GP de Dottignies (2013)
EPZ Omloop van Borsele (2013)
Stage in the Tour de Bretagne Feminin (2013)
Stage in the Energiewacht Tour (2014)

What she was known for
You could always leave it up to Vera Koedooder to make a race interesting. She admits that she wasn’t always the smartest rider, but she was an aggressive rider, usually taking on long solo attacks. Sometimes it led to the win, like in the 2014 Energiewacht Tour, where she took stage 3a and the leader’s jersey. Other times she had to make do with the “most aggressive rider” award, some airtime or just the appreciation of her teammates.

In her 15-year professional career on road and track, Koedooder won 15 Classics, two World Cup races, 8 Eurochamps medals, 45 medals at the track nationals, celebrating 126 victories and 288 podium finishes in total. She can also look back on two world titles on track as a junior. Koedooder entered every race wanting to win and would fight for that win until the very end.

What we’ll miss about her
Koedooder wasn’t just a great athlete, she also put in an effort to provide better circumstances for other athletes as part of the Athletes Committee of the NOC*NSF (Dutch Olympic Committee) and to offer sport possibilities for youngsters as an Jeugd Sport Fonds (Youth Sport Fund) ambassador.

Retirement plans
In the Noord-Hollands Dagblad, Koedooder stated that she was looking forward to “finishing my studies, not having to ride a bike every single day anymore, returning to West-Frisia, and most of all spending quality time with my family and friends.”

Koedooder is working toward a masters degree in Sport Management at the Johan Cruyff Institute, and we hope to see her stay active in the sport as we cannot imagine her leaving the sport all-together.

Sharon Laws


Professional years

2008: Team Halfords Bikehut
2010: Cervélo Test Team
2011: Team Garmin-Cervélo
2012: AA
2013: Lotto Belisol Ladies
2014: United Healthcare
2015: Bigla Pro Cycling
2016: Podium Ambition

Biggest wins
British national time trial championships (2008)
British national road race championships (2012)
Mountain classification in the Women’s Tour (2014)
British national MTB championships (2016)

What she was known for
An accomplished adventure, road and mountain bike racer, Laws was well into her thirties before turning professional. She helped Nicole Cooke win gold in the Beijing Olympic road race in 2008, but was snubbed by British Cycling in 2012 when she, as the British national road champion at the time,  was not selected to represent her country in the London Olympics.

She was two national titles, in the time trial and road race, and won the challenging Cape Epic multi-day mountain bike race in South Africa twice.

Retirement plans
Instead of enjoying a well earned retirement, the 42-year-old Laws was only weeks into her retirement before announcing the heart breaking news that she suffers cervical cancer in a “treatable but not curable” stadium. Facing her biggest challenge yet, she started a six month chemotherapy process in October.

Evelyn Stevens

Stage 2 Giro Rosa 2016

Professional years

2010: Team Columbia Women
2011: Team HTC Highroad Women
2012-2014: Specialized-lululemon
2015 & 2016: Boels-Dolmans

Biggest wins
5 Stages in the Giro Rosa (2010, 2012 & 2016)
American national time trial championships (2011, 2013, 2014 & 2015)
La Flèche Wallonne Feminine World Cup (2012)
GC Route de France (2012)
GC Exergy Tour (2012)
GC Thüringen Rundfahrt (2014)
Beating the UCI World hour record (2016)
World team time trial championships (2016)

What she was known for
Talk about stopping at your peak! During Evelyn Stevens’ last year in the pro peloton, she won three stages in the Giro Rosa, wore the pink leader’s jersey for three days, smashed the UCI world hour record and represented her country at the Rio Olympics to finish 10th in the individual time trial and 12th in the road race.

In her last ever race, she became world team time trial champion with her Boels-Dolmans teammates.

The Wall Street analyst turned pro cyclist was a much loved face in the peloton for seven years. Representing the United States at the world championships in 2009 without even having signed with a professional team yet (and finishing 15th!), Stevens’ story has been an incredible one.

What we’ll miss about her
The most distinctive feature about Stevens, other than her performances, is her infectious smile.  Last season, Stevens has crossed the line smiling from ear to ear many times, saying goodbye to pro cycling by adding lots of victories on her results list in her final year as a pro.

She was a loved teammate, as this picture shows, when Stevens crossed the line in her last ever road race the GP Plouay, celebrated by teammates Kasia Pawlowska, Lizzie Deignan and Nikki Brammeier.

Retirement plan
In ‘the final interview’ with VeloNews, she revealed that doesn’t have set plans for her retirement yet. “Finance, maybe.” But she assured us that she “won’t disappear. I don’t think I can disappear. I think right now it’s figuring out how, and what will make me the most effective.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.