After 16 years at the very top of professional cycling, Fabian Cancellara decided that 2016 would be his last in the sport.
It was a year in which he would have the chance to add to his Olympic medal collection and he could race in his hometown of Wohlen bei Bern during the Tour de France.
But none of this was on his mind, in fact it was back in 2013 that he made the decision. It just so happened that these special events coincided with his final campaign on the bike. And it could not have worked out any better.
The Swiss superstar won gold in the men’s time trial in Rio, eight years after triumphing in the same race in Beijing. But this time around, it meant even more.
“I knew my professional career stopped afterwards so it was special,” Cancellara told 7DAYS.
“I had to concentrate on my performance and we had a plan and a tactic. I was ready and just focused on the two laps.
“Not the contenders, the race, the mother, the wife or the kids; the last race or the gold or the silver. It was just about putting power into the pedals.
“It was really quite special.”
Now, after seven stage wins in the Tour de France and numerous time trial world titles, Cancellara will focus on the next stage of his career.
He plans to “give something back after 16 years” and is determined to work with kids. He hopes a new generation of riders will emerge now that he has left the sport and is excited to see cycling growing in new regions – especially the Middle East.
With the World Cycling Championships recently being held in Doha, Qatar and the Abu Dhabi Tour – which starts today and runs until Monday – receiving WorldTour status from next year, it is an exciting time for cycling in the region.
“Many people move to the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain and they don’t want to miss out on their hobby and there are so many tracks in the region now,” said Cancellara, who is a brand ambassador for IWC and was speaking in Dubai.
“So for Abu Dhabi to gain a level, of course it is important. It is important for the youth, the riders and the economy. It is a win-win situation.
“As long as it isn’t 45 degrees then it is okay to ride, cycling has to think global.”
Despite the mass appeal of cycling, the sport has once again seen its name dragged through the mud due to another doping controversy.
Russian hackers Fancy Bear have been releasing doping test of athletes in numerous sports but the focus has once again shifted towards cycling.
But for Cancellara, he believes the focus is in the wrong place.
“Doping is a sport problem and not just a cycling problem,” added the man known as ‘Spartacus’. “Cycling is always the black sheep in sport.
“Cycling had a problem and we are paying for it. But doping control for us is normal, it’s like having a coffee in the morning.”
But now Cancellara can forget doping tests and gruelling training sessions. After 16 years it’s time for him to just enjoy a leisurely ride, something he hasn’t done in a very long time.