Marcel Kittel has announced his immediate retirement from the sport in an interview with magazine Der Spiegel on Friday.
Kittel, 31, split with his Katusha-Alpecin team to take a break from cycling earlier this year, following a rapid decline in form since 2017.
Announcing his decision to retire for good, he said he had “lost all motivation to keep torturing myself on a bike.”
One of the best sprinters in the world at the height of his career, Kittel has 14 Tour de France stage victories to his name.
He won five stages on the Tour as recently as 2017, yet his star has fallen since then, following an ill-fated move to Team Katusha-Alpecin.
Kittel said he felt no trust at the Swiss-based team, “there was only pressure, pressure, pressure” and parted with Katusha-Alpecin by mutual consent earlier this year, intending to take a temporary break from cycling.
Since then, he said he has come to realise the negative effect cycling had on his life, and decided to give it up for good.
“The sport and the world you live in are defined by pain,” he added. “You don’t have time for family and friends, and then there’s the perpetual tiredness and routine.
“As a cyclist, you are on the road for 200 days of the year. I didn’t want to watch my son grow up via Skype.”
“I have thought long and hard about this decision and discussed it with my closest friends and my family.
“This decision process has not been a quick one, but has taken place over a long time: During my nearly 20 year sports career there have been not only incredible successes but also difficult times. I have always been one to openly question and reflect when such things happen, so that I can learn and become better.
“That, together with the people around me, has made me the successful athlete that I now am, but this method has also taught to leave my old ways and learn new ones. I know that there is much more than just sport, for example my own future family.
“Recently the thought on this future without cycling has grown, as has the awareness of the sacrifices that such a beautiful but also very difficult sport like cycling brings with it.
“The biggest question of the last few months was: Can I and do I want to continue to make the sacrifices needed to be a world-class athlete? And my answer is: No, I do not want that any more, because I have always found the limitations on a top athlete as an increasing loss of quality of life.
“That is why I have a very happy and proud that at this point in my life I can make the decision to follow my heart in a new direction.
“At this point I would like to thank all the people who have supported me in my career: my former teammates, my trainers, my friends, and my family, but above all my fans for the incredible support in the last few years.
“I look forward to the future with much anticipation.”