Today we announce that our great Dane, Matti Breschel, has taken the decision to retire from professional racing due to an ongoing psoriatic arthritis condition. Brechel’s life has been intertwined with cycling since he was young. Starting amateur racing in his teens, his passion for the sport continued to develop along with him into adulthood.
Breschel was the elder statesman on EF Education First Pro Cycling during his final two years of racing. The experienced and talented team player was well-respected by teammates and sport directors alike. He will be a rider greatly missed from within the peloton.
Racing his bike has always been his Northern Star, guiding him along, it filtered through every aspect of his life. His choice of place to live, Italy for many years, languages he learned, places he visited. In 2005 after years of dedication, Breschel signed his first professional cycling contract with the previous Danish outfit, Team CSC. In his first two seasons he managed to rack up second places at Le Samyn, Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen and take the best young rider’s jersey at the Tour of Qatar two years running.
By his third season, in 2007, after coming back from a fractured vertebrae injury, he took his first professional win on home turf on stage two at the Danmark Rundt.
In 2008, his credentials as a racer further grew, winning the Philadelphia International Championship, taking second in the Danish road race championships, winning the final stage of the Vuelta a España then rounding out the year with a bronze medal at the UCI World Championships.
Off the back of 2008, in 2009 Breschel finished sixth at the Tour of Flanders, ninth at Paris-Roubaix, took gold in the Danish national road race championships as well as winning stages at the Tour de Suisse, Volta a Catalunya, Tour de Luxembourg and Post Danmark Rundt. Then in 2010 at the World Championships in Geelong, Australia he took silver.
“He’s got a lot of passion,” head sports director, Charly Wegelius says. “I saw him in London recently [at the Prudential Ride London-Surrey Classic] and he had hardly slept for two days before the race because he was so excited about it. We know he has a lot of passion and sometimes people can be a victim of that and not see things for what they are.
“But I think he’s tried so hard to deal with the sickness he has and to work through it, but eventually he’s just looked at it and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore’, and as sad as that is, having to deal with a sickness, it’s at least allowed him a few months for that to settle in his head,” Wegelius continues.
It has been a tough year for Breschel as he has struggled on-and-off with chronic pain since the early part of the season during the Spring Classics. Our team doctors and his own general practitioner in Denmark have been helping him with different medications to try and ease the condition, but in the end Breschel has to think not only about his health now but also long-term health too.
“It was a big relief to finally take the decision to retire, because I was struggling a lot to find good form, and the medicine I was taking really knocked me out. I was sleeping for 15 hours a day, it was super tiring, especially for the head,” Breschel explains.
“For me it didn’t make sense to have a disease like that and keep on going as a professional bike rider. Especially the last two stages of the Giro d’Italia I rode, I was in a lot of pain and I thought to myself, ‘If I have to stop the Giro, I have to stop as a professional bike rider,’ and that was when I took the final decision on stage four, but I had been thinking about it a lot between February until May.”
For many riders, this is an incredibly tough decision to make, it means having to set out on a path of reinvention, reflecting on achievements but also thinking about what’s next. Looking at, and weighing up options, Breschel is fortunate to have time to think about what that means for him.
“There are a lot of really good memories for me, I’m super satisfied about my whole career and I’ve been able to see so much of the world and explore it through bike racing. I’ve been a part of some of the biggest teams in the sport for so long, meeting so many crazy cool people. It has given me a lot of life experience in general,” Breschel says.
“Riding on this team, it was a real eye opener. I have been on some very traditional teams and just the way that Slipstream, Cannondale and EF were and are doing things, it makes a lot of sense. I’ve been super happy being a part of this team,” he reflects.
EF Education First Pro Cycling CEO, Jonathan Vaughters, a former professional cyclist, can relate to this moment of transition in Breschel’s life.
“Matti was great to have on the team. He’s an intelligent and kind person as well as an incredibly sharp racer. But I’m confident his next chapter will be even more interesting than his last,” Vaughters says.
With a bit more spare time on his hands, looking forward, what does Breschel see filling it?
“I will love being able to spend more time playing my music and I would actually really love to learn how to sail. I live just next to the sea and it would be great to have a small sailing boat and learn how to do it. It’s almost the same kind of feeling as a long ride in the mountains, where you just get away from everything.”
As he races his last race on Danish soil today, he will be celebrating alongside his family and friends, a successful career spanning 15 years. On that note we want to say, thank you for riding with us Matti, and here’s to setting sail onto new adventures.