One more race and then the drag is over.

On Wednesday, Tony Martin gets on the time trial machine one last time, which has given him so many moments of happiness, but also a lot of sweat and exhaustion.

Then he leads the German men's trio in the mixed relay of the World Cycling Championships in Flanders.

After these last 22.5 kilometers between Knokke-Heist and Bruges, the job of a professional cyclist is finally over.

This was announced by Martin on Sunday, shortly before his penultimate race in the World Championship individual time trial.

With his notification of resignation before the individual time trial, Martin wanted to avoid that the decision acts like a frustration reaction to goals that were not achieved.

He has obviously been struggling with this for a long time.

“Such a far-reaching decision is of course not easy for you.

Cycling has shaped a large part of my life so far, with ups and downs, great successes and defeats, falls and comebacks, ”he said in a statement from his management on Sunday afternoon.

Martin then finished sixth in the time trial, while the Italian Filippo Ganna successfully defended his title.

“I enjoyed it, the atmosphere, the audience.

It was a great day and I'm proud of what I've achieved, ”said Martin after his performance.

With him, one of the defining figures in German cycling in the last decade is saying goodbye. Martin was a professional for 15 years. He started in 2005 as a stagiaire at the then German racing team Gerolsteiner. After two years with the Thuringian Energy Team, he joined Team Highroad, the successor to the Deutsche Telekom racing team, in 2008. He was the protagonist of the generation after Jan Ullrich - shaped by this idol in his youth, but one in adulthood who had to deal with the doping practices of former racing cyclists.

Martin was a harsh critic.

For a while, Martin was even considered to be someone who - like Ullrich once - seemed suitable for the high mountains.

That was around 2009, when he competed for the stage win on the queen stage of the Tour de France to Mont Ventoux and only had to be satisfied with second place because he miscalculated on the last corner.

Rarely on your own account

When it became clear that the talent for alpine terrain was insufficient, Martin changed saddles and concentrated on the time trials.

In 2011 he won the first of his four world championship titles in this category in Copenhagen.

In the lonely fight against the clock, he shaped an entire era with his sheer leg strength and his obsession with detail.

Most impressive was probably his third rainbow jersey, won in the heat of the desert state of Qatar. Martin, at that time already thought to be on the decline by many, surprised with unconventional training theory. To prepare for the extremely high temperatures, he trained in front of a fan heater. "I also put on thick clothes to keep my body temperature very high," he said afterwards.

He also repeatedly demonstrated his power in stage races. He often held the field together for his captains. Less often than was to be expected with his talent, he drove on his own account. Nevertheless, he achieved great victories here too. The battle name "armored car", which he did not particularly appreciate, was given to him in 2014 during a hussar ride through the Vosges. After almost 60 kilometers alone in front of an escape group of more than 20 men, Martin won an impressive tour stage victory. A year later he even drove away from the entire tour peloton on the cobblestones of Cambrai. With the win of the day, he also won the yellow jersey for the first time.

Two other pictures in particular will be remembered from the late phase of his long career. One is the gesture that Martin made at the start of the 2020 tour. With his arms outstretched and his upright torso, he encouraged his professional colleagues to drive slowly and carefully on the roads in the hilly hinterland of the Côte d'Azur, which had become slippery from the rain. Martin was the undisputed leader of the go-slow strike. "It was a good sign for me that the entire field of drivers, with the smallest of exceptions, pulled together and put driver safety before the result," he said.

At the Tour de France a year later, the image of the careless spectator who held a cardboard sign with the inscription “Allez Opi / Omi” into the peloton in such a way that Martin was the first to fall, causing a mass crash.

In the days that followed, Martin was involved in more falls and had to give up.

He got in shape again for the World Cup.

His own accidents with his bike and also the conditions in races, which he did not see significantly improved, were the decisive factors for him to abandon professional cycling in the future.

"Despite many discussions about the routing and barriers, safety in bike races has not improved," he said.

His farewell words thus also become a work assignment for the World Cycling Federation to improve safety.