Thomas Dekker retired from the pro peloton yesterday, bringing to a close one of the most illustrious potential careers in professional cycling. Cycling in the South Bay sat down with him on the park bench next to the one he normally sleeps on to talk about what’s next.
CitSB: So you’ve decided to retire?
TD: Yes. It was a really hard decision and I agonized over it for a long time. It was so tough to make up my mind but eventually I knew it was the right thing. Sometimes when you’re turning something over in your mind for a long time, seems like there’s no good answer, then bang–the answer presents itself.
CitSB: Couldn’t find a team, huh?
TD: Oh yes, that was huge. You can’t imagine how tough it is to ride as a professional today without a team.
CitSB: Pretty expensive?
TD: Super expensive. Then there’s the whole thing about getting your own bottles, driving your own car as the DS, giving yourself massages, and of course being your own domestique and lead-out train. It’s very hard to do.
CitSB: You’re still not that old compared to, you know, real bike racers like Jens Voigt. Why do you think your career ended so soon?
TD: I’m older than Andy, remember. He quit at age 29.
CitSB: True, but he has a bike shop he’s going to open. So that was probably extra motivation for a former Tour de France champion to go ahead and retire. You’re not opening a bike shop, are you?
TD: No, but I think the main difference is that guys like Andy and I were from a different generation.
CitSB: How so?
TD: We grew up using massive amounts of drugs from an early age. Devoid of natural talent, work ethic, or drive, we were picked early by our federations’ sports-industrial complex and earmarked for success. Sheltered, pampered, overpaid, and feted, we grew up thinking that bike racing meant cranking out good numbers in a lab and winter training meant withdrawing oxygenated blood in December for later use in July.
CitSB: And you mean that there was more to bike racing than that?
TD: Not initially. Come on, we crushed it before they started cracking down on Lance.
CitSB: What was that thing with the hour record?
TD: I was hoping that someone would see how fast I was and offer me a contract. Simple. Kind of like Horner signing on with that junior high development squad and only doing the local CBR crits. I like that guerilla marketing stuff. “Grand Tour champion sprints for water bottle prime.” Freaking cool. Some big team is gonna snap that guy up soon.
CitSB: Surely some teams showed interest?
CitSB: What do you chalk that up to?
TD: As Jonathan Vaughters said a couple of years ago, I’m sort of an immature asshole.
CitSB: I think his words were “arrogant prick” and “hugely insecure guy.”
TD: I think that’s pretty close to “immature asshole.”
CitSB: Fair enough.
TD: So yes, that probably had something to do with me not getting another ride.
CitSB: What are your plans for the future?
TD: (Waves hands at park bench) This is the future, mate.
CitSB: Wow. These steel armrests must be pretty uncomfortable to rest your head on at night.
TD: Yes, but you know what? My whole life up to now was dominated by cycling, but I do not want to depend on my form, my equipment, my team, anyone or anything any longer. My cycling career was beautiful, ugly, intense, and edifying. I’m ready for a new step. Without my bike.
CitSB: That’s pretty noble, but as my dad used to say, how are you gonna eat?
TD: Could you lend me five bucks?
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