A persisting knee injury has forced Tom Veelers (Team Giant-Alpecin) to quit cycling. The 32-year-old Dutchman – still under contract for 2017 with the team which will be known as Team Sunweb – has been battling ongoing knee problems from the 2015 pre-season and has undergone two operations in an attempt to recover. However, progress has been slow and hopes for a full recovery have now faded.
After extensive talks with the team, Veelers has decided to end his active cycling career and use his drive and experience to start a new chapter in his life within the team.
Veelers will extend his commitment to the team and will use the upcoming period to identify a role within the team’s coaching staff and in the team’s headquarters.
Veelers turned professional with the team in 2008 and can look back on a career where he took four professional victories. During the time, he developed a role as a lead-out rider and helped his team’s sprinters to many victories, including eight Tour de France stages, three Giro d’Italia stage wins and a stage victory in the Vuelta a España.
“I came to the conclusion that I can’t live any longer in an uncertainty of returning to the highest level or not, without real progression in the recovery,” said Veelers. “The last one and a half years have been tough, battling recovery. The realization that my career could have ended came gradually, and accelerated when we started talking about the future and the arising opportunity within the team.
“I look back on my career very proudly and happily. I am blessed with the chances I’ve had and we’ve created as a team. Together we grew and have experienced a lot. As a person I’ve developed, learned life lessons and I gained confidence. In the team I learned to function as a real team, with great cooperation. This was something completely new to me at that time and this approach brought us a lot of success, and still does.
“Of course I would have loved to continue racing for some years, but I don’t see any other possibility than to stop. I am a thoughtful person and the decision hasn’t been made overnight. This step will mean a new chapter in my life and I am very much looking forward to it. I am happy to add my value to the team in a new way now and thinking about the future gives me a new energy.”
CEO Iwan Spekenbrink added: “It’s difficult to see a career of such a sportsman end in this way. The progression Tom has made is impressive and together we reached the first highlights in the history of the team – where Tom played a major role. He is a real culture carrier in the team and we’re very happy and proud that we will continue to work together. Tom supports our philosophy and our approach to modern cycling and we have a lot of mutual respect for each other.
“He will be a huge asset as he brings plenty of experience and knowledge, which he can share within the team. Next to that, Tom has been riding with the team for nine years and he has a great working relationship with everyone. We are pleased that Tom extends his commitment as he has the potential to become a valuable member of our staff.”
Team physician Anko Boelens explained Veelers’ injury: “Tom has been fighting knee pain caused by a cartilage defect on the patella-femoral joint, between the patella and the femur. To overcome his injury, Tom underwent two surgeries to fix the defect cartilage. In addition, he did physiotherapy, as well as treatments from the chiropractor. Unfortunately, he is still suffering from pain in the knee and he is unable to put pressure on the affected area, and as a consequence needs to end his professional career.”