Retiring for a professional athlete – or anyone at the top of their game – is often difficult. Is it the right time? Could you have done more? How will the world remember your exploits? It can often lead to feeling unneeded, even depressed. But for Fabian Cancellara, 37, retirement is looking like just the opposite. Working in product development, leading an international race series, getting back into skiing, and spending time with his wife and two kids in his hometown of Bern, Switzerland, are keeping him plenty busy. Indeed, after racing at the top level for nearly 17 years, Cancellara officially hung it up in August 2016 after winning an Olympic gold medal, and says he has nothing to complain about.
“A better moment to retire is not possible,” he told RoadBikeReview last month in Park City, Utah, while in town for a new Gore Wear product launch that he worked closely on. “I’m in the middle of a big learning process. It keeps me moving. I’m too young to do nothing.”
That learning process, professionally, means understanding the ins and outs, production cycles, and possibilities and restraints of apparel design with one of the largest and most famous ingredient brands in the world, W.L. Gore, and its cycling arm, Gore Wear (formerly Gore Bike and Gore Run). Cancellara has lent the brand his face and his name, and in turn he gets to design the riding apparel he always dreamed about. He is also bullish on what he calls “bicycle as lifestyle” in the U.S. as well as the growing e-bike trend in Europe.
And unlike many of his peers (think George Hincapie) he’s not organizing gran fondos, but instead spearheading an eight-ride international race series called Chasing Cancellara where he can come together with fans.
Now in its second year, the Chasing Cancellara series began in Switzerland and has expanded to five countries, with even bigger visions for 2019. These destination races offer three different race/ride formats across a spectrum of topography and difficulty levels, from beginner to semi-pro.
Cancellara is also invested in triathlon, not a total shocker given his massive success in time trials over the years. He says he sees the sport as an area for growth internationally and became a partner in the re-born TriStar International Triathlon Series last year. They hope to build TriStar into a global triathlon event production company. The brand, which produced 25 events in Europe, South America, and the Caribbean, had been on hiatus since the main investor pulled out at the end of the 2012 racing season.
“I think retirement, it is never easy in one way, but that’s actually the beauty of it – from doing nothing, there’s also nothing coming,” Cancellara said. “You have to feel comfortable and happy with what you’re doing, and everyone has to find his motivation for the future.”