Stijn Vandenbergh has announced his retirement from professional cycling at the age of 36. The AG2R La Mondiale rider draws a 14-year career to a close, having spent the last four seasons at the French team.
A Classics specialist, Vandenbergh turned pro with the ill-fated Unibet team in 2007 and joined AG2R for a year before spending three seasons at Katusha. However, he's perhaps best known for his five years at Patrick Lefevere's QuickStep team, where he was part of a formidable Classics squad including Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Sylvain Chavanel, Zdenek Štybar and Matteo Trentin.
He took the best results of his career at the Belgian squad, including second at the 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, third at the 2016 Baloise Belgium Tour, and fourth at the 2014 Tour of Flanders, E3 Harelbeke and 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, as well as his only pro win – a stage of the 2016 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
Vandenbergh told Het Laatste Nieuws that he couldn't find a ride for 2021, and that he would've liked to race for one last spring Classics campaign.
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"The final deadline is over," he said. "I've turned the switch in my head. It's done."
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the squeeze on teams and riders around the cycling world – it being the reason that Vandenbergh couldn't find a new contract with AG2R La Mondiale or another team. He said that he'll look forward to seeing his daughter and going travelling.
"I'm going to enjoy the free time I never had. I definitely want to see my daughter more often. She's with me every two weeks for a weekend but even that didn't always work out during the season.
"I'd also like to take more trips. Thailand is on my list and I want to do a mountain bike tour of Morocco. I enjoy the mountain bike even more than the road bike nowadays – you can really ride in the countryside instead of next door."
Unlikes Maes, who is already a Lotto Soudal directeur sportif and has interest in construction and real estate, and Pauwels, who said he hopes to remain in cycling, Vandenbergh doesn't yet have a firm plan on his next career move.
"I don't know what I'm going to do next," he said. "I give myself six months to a year to think about it. I've already organised a couple of tours and I'd like to do that more often – day trips by car on nice rides in the beautiful nature where you can get breakfast and lunch while following the route via roadbook."
Vandenbergh is the third AG2R rider to announce their retirement this season, following Clément Chevrier and Axel Domont.
It's a year of change for the WorldTour team, who add co-title sponsor Citröen and revamp the squad as Greg Van Avermaet, Bob Jungels and Lilian Calmejane head up the incoming transfers while GC men Romain Bardet and Pierre Latour are the most prominent outgoing riders.
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