Martin had previously taken four world championships victories in the Elite men’s time trial, with his last victory coming in 2016. He announced his impending retirement ahead of the world championships, and produced his best individual time trial performance in recent years as he finished sixth overall before backing up for the mixed team event and taking the win as part of a strong German squad.
“It’s just the best way to say goodbye that I can imagine,” the German said during a solo press conference in Bruges.
“I’ve always said that Copenhagen in 2011 (when Martin won his first world title) will always be the biggest moment in my cycling career - that will always be like that - but today is also super high in the ranking. Maybe from the emotional side it’s even higher. I really can’t imagine a better way for my last day."
Martin was given a lot of respect and acknowledgement from fans and riders alike, with hordes of well-wishers at the finish.
“What I could imagine came true and even more,” said Martin. “The atmosphere was incredible, the crowds were incredible. I really enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the few minutes when we were all together with the teams in the tent, watching the end of the race. When the result was clear, everyone came to me to say goodbye and wish me all the best for my future, so that’s really emotional for me.”
Martin reiterated his reasons for quitting cycling, primarily centred around his concerns about race safety and the lack of a UCI response. He has suffered a run of bad crashes in the past few seasons, most recently at the Tour de France, where he was the first rider taken down in the infamous mass crash caused by a spectator holding a sign facing a TV camera rather than the oncoming cyclists.
“I just didn’t feel safe anymore, to be honest. Racing was not really fun anymore for me,” said Martin.
“This year I was lying in the ambulance en route to hospital full of blood and full of pain. I’m 36 and a dad to two daughters. You start to question yourself - if it’s really worth it and what you’re doing here. I still have passion for cycling but not for taking the risks in the races. That’s why I told myself to stop before something serious happens to me.”
The UCI Road World Championships continues on SBS with the road races. Next up is the men’s junior road race at 1610 AEST on Friday, September 24, with the Men’s Under 23 road race starting just after its conclusion at 2115 AEST.