Groupama-FDJ rider Theo Nonnez has opened up on his decision to retire from cycling at just 21 years old due to "burnout".
The Frenchman made the announcement in a wide-ranging interview on the team’s website, citing the damaging effect cycling was having on his mental health.
Nonnez revealed how unhappy he had been before taking the decision to walk away from the sport, admitting his depression had him questioning whether his life had any meaning.
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“I made this decision after a long period of reflection. I think we can call it a burnout, even though it’s rather an addition of many things that got me to this point,” he confessed.
“I realise that I did the right thing with coming out of my silence, because I don’t know what would have happened if I had remained quiet any longer."
He added: “I went through a phase of extreme loneliness. I certainly had my friends and family, and I was lucky to have them, but I still felt super weak.
"I am the only one to know how I feel, and I can guess it is not very easy for others to understand, no matter how hard they try. I questioned myself a lot. I was almost like, ‘What’s the point of living?’
It took me a little while before I managed to get back on my feet. I still have some real bad moments, but I wanted to pick myself up very quickly.
Nonnez claimed he stopped enjoying himself on the bike and began to lose motivation for a long time, with things finally coming to a head as he was in training during the winter months.
“I felt my motivation was low, very low even, but I still wanted to force myself over and over again,” he lamented.
“Finally, something clicked a few days before Christmas. I went for a training ride on my own. The weather was really bad, and after a while, I broke down. I started to cry on the bike.
“At that point, I said to myself: ‘Théo, you have to stop all this, it has to change, there is something wrong’.”
Nonnez who won a French junior national road title in 2016, had ridden with the Groupama-FDJ Continental squad since 2019.
After speaking to the team about how he felt, including medical staff, Nonnez says they were very understanding and put no pressure on him to decide his next move.
“When I called the team to tell them I wanted to stop, I was in tears. They told me to take my time, to take a few weeks to think about it, to put the bike aside and not ride if I didn’t feel like it. I can’t thank the team enough for that," he said.
“I felt bad about not respecting the contract, but I would have felt like taking the guys for idiots going there and pretending everything was all right. This sport is so hard when you’re at 100%, so when you’re not, it’s not even an option.”
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