Luka Pibernik has retired from professional cycling at the age of 27.
He is the latest rider to call an early end to their career due to a lack of options in a transfer market heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Former Olympic champion Jon Dibben has done so at the age of 26, while the AG2R pair Axel Domont and Clement Chevrier are both heading into the wine industry.
The former Slovenian national champion did not receive a contract extension offer from Bahrain McLaren, where he has ridden for the past four years, and struggled to find a ride elsewhere during the off-season.
With the new year now upon us, Pibernik announced via social media that he was calling it a career.
“That’s it from cycling… it was nice and funny,” he wrote.
“Thanks to everyone who helped me achieve what I am! It’s time for new challenges in life. Thank you and happy new year.”
Pibernik came through the Radenska team in Slovenia that also provided a pathway to Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar. He won the Slovenian national road race title in 2013, before turning professional with Lampre-Merida in 2015, when he won the title for a second time.
In his two years at Lampre, he also won a stage of the BinckBank Tour and made his Tour de France debut.
Pibernik then joined the Bahrain team, then known as Bahrain-Merida, when they were set up ahead of the 2017 season. He rode the Giro d’Italia and two editions of the Vuelta a España for the team, as well as all five Monuments.
One memorable moment came when he thought he’d won stage 5 of the 2017 Giro, only to realise he was celebrating a lap too early on the Messina finishing circuit.
Pibernik was told he wouldn’t be offered a contract renewal and in early December the Bahrain team announced that he would be leaving, along with Mark Cavendish, Ivan Cortina, Enrico Battaglin, and fellow Slovenian Grega Bole, who also hasn’t found a team for 2021.
“It’s time to say goodbye to a few of our awesome riders! Whether you’ve been with us for one year or four unforgettable seasons, you’ve created memorable moments for us all,” read the statement from the team. It’s been a pleasure, and we wish you all the best for your futures.”