McEwen has seemed past his prime for a number of years now and 2011 could be the year that the Aussie finally hangs up his cleats. He has been largely ineffective since the 2008 season and at 38 years old he is very long in the tooth as well. for the upcoming season he'll ride as a part of the Pegasus team, where he'll notch his name as a charter member of the most ambitious Australian cycling project ever. His involvement with the team is a nice cap to an illustrious career, and he can probably expect a job to be waiting for him with the team upon his retirement announcement. McEwen will be remember for his fiery demeanor on and off the bike, his ability to win with little or no team help and his no nonsense approach to the media.
Oscar "El Gato" Freire could probably keep going after 2011, but all signs point to the Spaniard retiring at the end of the season. The sprinter has done about all there is to do in the sport, but he still wants one more shot at the world championships. If he can win the rainbow jersey one more time he'll become the only rider ever to accomplish the feat. Freire had an excellent 2010 season including a huge win at Milan-San Remo, so clearly his top end speed and endurance are still there. Always fragile though, Freire seems continuously in danger of being knocked out by sickness throughout the year. Like McEwen, Freire will be remembered as a rider who won on his own and on his terms, as an extremely versatile rider who was difficult to detach on short climbs and flat finishes alike.
CVV is still fairly young at only 34 years old, but cycling has been hard on both his body and his mind, especially in recent years. The Illinois product has hit the ground too many times to count in past seasons, and even he has allowed that finding the motivation to continue has been difficult. For 2011 he'll be a part of a completely reshaped Garmin-Cervelo squad, one that will focus more on the classics and sprints than the grand tour general classifications. This new dynamic could work one of two ways for Vande Velde: Either the lack of pressure allows him to fly free at the Tour or his motivation collapses with the lack of support in the three week tours. If it's the latter, expect him to say goodbye to the sport at the end of the season.
Big George has forged a Hall of Fame career over the 16 years he has been a professional. He began his career as a pure sprinter before tailoring his approach to the northern classics, and specifically Paris-Roubaix. Hincapie has been as close as 2nd in the "Queen of the Classics", but he has never been able to capture a win in his favorite race. Still, he has three national championships to his credit, four Tour de France stage wins and two semi-classics. Once he does retire, he'll be remembered as one of the best riders in the history of American cycling. The last three seasons for George have been good but not great, and an ever younger BMC team looks to be passing the torch to their younger riders. Hincapie will likely guide Taylor Phinney through his first classics season before handing him the reigns in 2012.
Jens Voigt, as the Chuck Norris of cycling, could probably ride for another decade if he wanted to. in fact, it's hard to imagine him ever retiring. Still, the German is certainly slowing down as he approaches his 40th birthday. He'll join up with the Schleck brothers at the Luxembourg Cycling Project in 2011, which will likely mark his final season in the pro peloton. Voigt has had an amazing career, making a name for himself with his long-range attacks, unwavering loyalty and tough as nails racing style. Voigt's greatest personal accomplishment must be his five wins at the Criterium International event along with his multiple Tour de France stage wins.
These five riders, when they do eventually leave the sport, will leave a gaping void in terms of talent, personality and professionalism. If they all do retire after this season the 2012 cycling season will be missing five of the more engaging personalities in the sport today. All worthy of Hall of Fame status, they each deserve a hero's send off once they finally do call it quits. for now though, we all can enjoy them racing their bikes, if only for one more year.