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In His Own Words: Julian Dean on Retirement from the Pro Peloton

Mon 28 Jan 2013

As he has for many years, Julian Dean travelled to Europe with his family following the New Zealand National Road Championships. Unlike in years’ past, Dean made the trip without his bike. The Kiwi is set to embark on a new journey in which he has traded two wheels for four as Assistant Sport Director for ORICA-GreenEDGE. In his own words, Dean tells you about his final race and the first week of retirement.

After 17 years as a professional bike rider making the decision on how to step down is not as simple as it may seem - especially since the major part of my career has been spent on the continent whereas the greater portion of my loyal supporters are in New Zealand. For that reason, rather than drawing the curtain on my career at the Japan Cup – the last race of my 2012 season - which would have been the easy option, I felt a need to draw the curtain on my racing career by finishing off in New Zealand. And the biggest race in New Zealand of recent years has been the New Zealand Road Championships. So although it wasn’t an easy option to carry on training for the three month period after the European road season to the New Zealand Championships, it felt like, and proved to be, the right thing to do. This allowed me the opportunity to share the moment with family, friends and loyal fans.

The reason for choosing to do the race was different compared to years gone by, meaning that my mental approach also had to be somewhat different. My motivation was fed more by emotion than anything else. While a good result at the nationals gratifies the athlete in me, the bigger motivation was to have a good day - ride well and step away with my head held high. 

On the start line I was a mixed bag of feelings; happiness, as my two boys were able to share the start of the race by being at my side as we rolled out, sadness that I would never be doing it again, relief that I had made it to the start line with my fitness and health intact, and of course stirred up with all those emotions were stress and worry about the unknown still to come. However, one thought remained supreme in my mind and that was that I was to enjoy the day no matter what. 

The day itself turned out to be a race that wasn’t too different to the path of my career itself. As is always the case with the nationals, it was a constant battle and with my condition not being as good as I had hoped, I had to fight back many times after the two kilometre climb on the urban circuit. So there I was racing away, getting dropped, fighting my way back to the front, riding on the front to try and bring back the break, and eventually starting to come into my own as we neared the final laps. I wrapped up a small group sprint for 3rd place. 

It had been a hard day but a good one. I didn’t win and it wasn’t easy - a subtle reminder of just how hard the sport can be and that there are no gifts. You work for and earn everything you get.

Now back in Europe and itching to get started helping the team in other ways, it is certainly a different feeling than having to think about and measure kilometres, hours, food and rest. For the first time in my life, I flew into Europe without a bike and touching down in Zurich looking out the window of the plane at the cold, icy European winter, I was tinged with a flutter of contentment knowing that I wouldn’t have to battle the elements of the late European winter and spring on the bike. 

Only having officially hung it up for one week, it feels like the ‘honeymoon period’; the new life feels like a welcome change. In the back of mind however, I am already trying to figure out where to go now and how I can add value in a new way to the ORICA-GreenEDGE programme.  As always, being the athlete, I want to get in there head first and start contributing. Having talked through retirement with many athletes who have gone through the process, I feel fortunate to be connected to GreenEDGE and having the guidance and opportunities that such a cohesive team environment provides. Just as I have operated on the bike leading guys out, I’m now ready to take up a similar but different role; I am looking forward to adding value to the team by guiding the riders through the race season and ultimately their careers.

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