Will Routley, one of the most dedicated and well-respected riders in the peloton, called an end to his twelve-year cycling career earlier this month. In his time as a professional, Routley took several high profile victories including the Canadian National Road title in 2010, a stage and King of the Mountains at the 2014 Tour of California and a stunning sprint victory this year in stage two of the GP Liberty Seguros in Portugal on his way to second overall. As Routley leaves the peloton we sit down with him one last time.
What made you decide to retire?
I have thought about retiring a little bit every year I raced, and was pretty much certain I would stop on a number of occasions. On the one hand, I love racing so much, and really just love training. I love the lifestyle, making sure you are healthy and feeling strong, well rested, and just going out and hammering the hell out of your body. However, I am also wise after so many years of racing, I have no interest in getting hurt and was starting to racing cautiously.
The big draw to move on from racing was wanting to accomplish other goals. There is so much out there in life and a lot of people get stuck doing what they've always done. It was more about working on the next thing rather than leaving the current thing.
What were the worst and best parts of being a pro cyclist?
The best part is the adventure. Traveling the world with guys that become your best friends and brothers. So many experiences from a perspective one can't get as a tourist. I drank tea with yak's milk on the Tibetan plateau after being a DNF in a race in China, lived in an ice-cold apartment in the Pyrenees in southern France. I rode up a volcano to a tiny village in El Salvador, in the dark, and in a cloud of diesel fumes and wood smoke from people cooking. As a cyclist we pretty much live out of a suitcase, and I was very fortunate to have so much family time. My wife was also racing and we didn't spend nearly as much time apart as many do. Together we have spent winters in California, Belgium, Spain and France. It has been an amazing experience!
What stands out to you as career highlights on the bike?
Certainly some of my best results - Tour of California in 2014 was just incredible, my consistency at Canadian Nationals is a good memory and Tro Bro Leon in France where I blew the final and finished second. I became beloved in that region because of how I threw it all out there. Definitely the first year Shoshauna and I lived in Europe was a highlight - every race was exciting. I had a two-month period that was nothing but a highlight on the bike, amazing roads, amazing fitness, six hours and 200 kilometers and feeling amazing, I will never be that fit again.
What was the worst day you had on the bike?
The best part of my horrible memory is I forget these awful experiences. Otherwise, I don't know how I'd have kept going for so long. I do remember sitting on the side of the road in a race in Germany. I had just smashed my face into a steel fence. I was thinking to myself how fortunate I was to have crashed right beside an ambulance. It was a few days later when the funny thought popped into my head, 'Maybe the ambulance came and found me.'
What was most rewarding besides winning races?
I am proud of how I became a voice for clean sport. I never had a problem with telling it like it is, and people respected that.
You have been outspoken advocate for clean cycling. How did it impact your career?
I never thought about doping/cheating I think it's crazy that this thought is special. It is not just our sport – but in all pro sports. Many out there cheat to get ahead but the strange thing in sports is that clean athletes keep quiet on the subject, as they often have to be teammates and work day in and day out with dopers. I just didn't care. I'd tell it like it is, call a doper an asshole, and remind people he stole directly from me. Maybe one day I'd have him as my teammate, or maybe a team wouldn't hire me because of this. In reality people only respected me more so, and that puts a smile on my face.
What are your thoughts on leaving Rally Cycling?
I always tell people, if you want to race in North America, this is the only team you want to be on. I really like how the staff and management are honest and truthful. It is a professional team and it is a joy to see it run in a professional manner. A lot of people get into running cycling teams because they love the sport, but that doesn't necessarily mean they know how to operate a business. In this team, things are well put together which allowed us to have fun on the road and focus on racing bikes.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other cyclists?
Well after a few months of "civilian living" my joints are sore and I don't feel the same, that's for sure. The thing about cycling is, you have to just enjoy the ride! People get really hung up on their goals and on winning, but after so many years I realized there is a time and a place to just look at the scenery and take it all in.
What’s next for the Routleys?
Kombucha! Shoshauna and I both just finished our last season of professional racing and rather that dither on our next goals we have jumped right in. She is working three jobs and we always have something on the go on the farm. The big project however is Healthy Hooch Kombucha. We have done a total conversion of our workshop and it is now a brewery. We have spent every spare minute in the past three months building the project.
I think we've been drinking Kombucha for ten years, and Canada is a good few years behind the USA in terms of popularity of the drink, but it is just blowing up here right now in the Vancouver area. We are super pumped! We are able to procure flavors from right here in our neighborhood. We live in the best farmland in the country with access to berries and herbs. This will enable us to produce unreal flavors of kombucha. It has been a huge learning experience, never mind building a corporate business as well as physically doing the construction and manual labor.