Whistler-raised road racer Will Routley announced his retirement in a release from his team, Rally Cycling, on Dec. 2. The main reason for stepping away, the 33-year-old explained, was to focus on Healthy Hooch Kombucha, his new venture with wife Shoshauna.
"I was doing really well and it's become my career, but really, it was more to do with motivation to do other things and to succeed in cycling, or in most things, requires 100-per-cent focus and dedication. That's your primary area where all your energy goes, so just being excited about other things slowly and surely started pulling me away," he said.
"I've always been very entrepreneurial and my wife and I both, we're partners when it comes to the hobby farm and then this new business idea, which we've been talking about with different ideas for a long time, we decided we wanted to really pursue this kombucha. To do it, it's a major commitment."
Routley is wasting no time getting started, as the workshop passed health inspection the day of his retirement.
While transitioning to a new challenge was a major reason to make this decision now — Routley had pondered retirement at the end of recent seasons before deciding to return — he also said he had accomplished much of what he'd set out to do as a racer, even as he grew more and more ambitious.
"When I was growing up as a kid, there were only one or two Canadians who were even racing on a U.S.-based pro team, so that seemed like a pretty lofty goal," he said. "I was starting to race the North American circuit and as you accomplish one goal, you set another that's a little bit more lofty.
"It's hard to say where the goal is, because when I was younger, really all I wanted to do was to be a professional cyclist. That was my goal as a kid. I did it and made a really good living."
Routley's accomplishments include winning the Canadian National road title in 2010, and one stage win as well as the King of the Mountain title in the 2014 Tour of California. This past season, he won one stage at the GP Liberty Seguros in Portugal.
He said the California accomplishment stands out as a career highlight not only for what he accomplished during the race but for the six months of training he had enjoyed the previous offseason in which he didn't get sick, slept well and pushed hard.
"My body was just invincible. It was so strong and it was just the culmination of the most epic block of training throughout the whole winter from November 'til May. It was six months of perfection and that doesn't happen that often," he said.
In recent seasons, Routley said he had put a focus on self-preservation and raced a little more conservatively as a result. However, he suffered an injury in a local race that kept him from performing a swan song at events like the Tour of Alberta or RBC GranFondo, which was a disappointing way to go out.
He'll look back on his career not only for what he did while pushing the pedals, but also for the fact it brought him across the world to places like China and El Salvador while also pushing for clean sport.
It was the "mental stimulation" that kept him active for a lengthy 12-year career.
"If it weren't for the experiences off the bike, I don't think I'd have pursued it as long as I did or as far as I did. I'm obviously competitive and driven to have been a pro athlete this long, but I wouldn't say I'm the most competitive person," he said. "It's the whole experience combined. It was a lot of adventures and a lot of life experience.
"Even by my mid-to-late 20s, I was able to see more places than most people do in a lifetime and have a lot of different experiences with different people from all different walks of life. It's pretty unique, you don't really get that in a lot of other jobs."