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After 11 years racing at the top level, Megan Guarnier will retire from professional cycling at the end of the 2018 UCI road world championships in Innsbruck. The three-time U.S. national road champion will finish out her final race for trade team Boels-Dolmans at this week’s Boels Rental Ladies Tour in The Netherlands.
Guarnier announced her plans to retire on her personal blog on Tuesday morning.
“I am 33 years old I would like to have a family and going to [the 2020 Olympics in] Tokyo is another two difficult years and that puts me at an older age,” Guarnier told VeloNews.
“That’s one huge aspect of it, but it’s a hard sport and it’s especially hard for Americans away from home all year round. Being nine time zones away from my husband was never easy, but it seems to be getting more hard.
“I also suffered two serious injuries and the risk versus reward ratio is more than I would like to take at this point in my life.”
Guarnier’s career followed a steadily steepening curve each year, reaching its pinnacle in 2016 when she won three individual races on the inaugural UCI women’s WorldTour en route to the overall series title.
Guarnier also claimed the Giro Rosa and Amgen Tour of California titles that year, and finished the season ranked No. 1 in the UCI road standings.
“I was consistent and that showed in the results,” Guarnier said. “I think my breakthrough achievement was winning Strade Bianche in 2015, that was my first confidence booster that I could win a one day in Europe and I had been racing here for years.”
Perhaps the only stain on the copybook is her 11th place at the Rio Olympics.
“I’m happy with how my career has played out,” she said. “When I first started racing I would never have believed you if you told me I would win a national championship. I would have never believed you if you told me I was going to win the Giro. When I first started racing all I wanted to do was race the Giro and I thought my ticket to bike racing was being a domestique, I never had any intention of being a lead rider.
“Everything I have done has exceeded my wildest dreams, but at the same time I have also not achieved everything I wanted to.”
Of the races Guarnier wished she could have won, the American listed the UCI road world championships, as well as la Flèche Wallonne.
“[Fleche] always eluded me as well but I can’t be disappointed,” Guarnier said. “I still have Innsbruck, but my goals have developed as my career did.”
Guarnier’s relationship with fellow American Evelyn Stevens provided controversy. Guarnier famously dropped Stevens, then a teammate on Boels-Dolmans, at the 2016 Philadelphia International Classic. The following month it appeared Stevens was attempting to return the compliment, attacking Guarnier at the Giro Rosa. On both occasions, however, Guarnier came out on top.
Guarnier was not so fortunate in 2017 when defending her Amgen Tour of California title. Hints of a similar polemic crept up after Guarnier won the opening stage. The following day Guarnier’steammate and Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen attacked to finish second. The team spent the rest of the race helping van der Breggen secure bonus seconds to win the overall.
Serious injuries also bookended Guarnier’s 2017 season making the last two years hard a struggle for her. Guarnier said she had been close to quitting for several years.
“After the Rio Olympics I could see that this is getting harder and riskier than I wanted in this point of my life,” she explained. “I always had the option to leave, and in 2017 after my concussion and coming back mid-season, Danny [Stam – team manager] and I had the conversation, ‘did you want to do another year?’
“I was leaning towards wrapping it up and the end of 2017, but I thought there’s more I can do. When I broke my jaw at the world championships I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ but after that initial reaction I didn’t want to leave the sport because of an injury, it’s always better to leave on your own terms.”
While Guarnier has continued to win, races she might have won in 2016 have often ended in solid top five placings. The world championship course in Innsbruck suits her and retiring with the Rainbow jersey remains a realistic goal.
However, perhaps Guarnier’s greatest achievement is proving an American woman can cross the Atlantic and reach the top of the world.