Four-time world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Leigh Howard bids farewell


Four-time world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Leigh Howard has announced his cycling retirement after a successful career spanning 13 years.

Howard retires off the back of realising his Olympic dream at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal in the team pursuit alongside Sam Welsford, Kelland O’Brien, Lucas Plapp and Alex Porter.

Howard had privately considered Tokyo his “last hoorah” but said the final decision was made only recently.

“I think the moment it became a reality was about a month after the Olympics,” he said.

“I hadn’t touched the bike, and usually in past years, after about four weeks of not riding, that is when I’m itching to get back on the bike. However, this time after four weeks, I still had no interest whatsoever in getting back on the bike again.

“Going for rides with my dog was about my limit. I’m sure eventually I will get back on and start doing more, but for the moment, I’m happy just playing some golf and doing a bit of running.”

Regarded as one of Australia’s brightest talents on the track as a junior, Howard delivered on the plaudits from the get-go, winning a 2008 UCI Track Cycling World Championship bronze medal in the omnium at the age of 18 before attaining his first rainbow stripes in the same event a year later in Poland.

Howard would claim back-to-back Madison world championships in 2010 and 2011 with Cameron Meyer before departing the Australian Cycling Team track program to fully commit to his burgeoning WorldTour career, which began in 2010 with Team HTC–Columbia.

Howard returned to the Australian Cycling Team program in 2018, winning Commonwealth Games gold at Gold Coast 2018 with Alex Porter, Sam Welsford, Kelland O’Brien and Jordan Kerby, while also becoming the first team in history to break the three-minute fifty-second barrier (3min 49.804secs).

A fourth world championship gold would follow in 2019 in Poland with Alex Porter, Sam Welsford, Kelland O’Brien and Cam Scott, smashing their world record in the process with a time of 3min 48.012secs.

TP 2019

Over an eight-year road career in Europe spent with Team HTC, Orica-GreenEdge, IAM Cycling and Aqua Blue Sport, the Geelong Cycling Club junior would amass starts at all three Grand Tours as well as notable stage victories at the 2010 Tour of Oman and 2012 Tour of Britain.

Howard said he ranked his first professional win in Oman as one of his fondest memories.

“... and also crossing the finish line in Paris at the 2016 Tour de France,” he said.

“The moment I’m most proud of was standing on the podium in Tokyo - not much can beat that feeling.

“It was a big fight to get track-ready again after so many years on the road, and then throwing COVID and a newborn into the mix in the lead up was extremely difficult but rewarding.

“I’m proud of my partner for what she was able to do during that time to help me do what I have done.

“Olympics was by far the most challenging thing I had to do, not that my other accomplishments during my career came easily, but the length of time it took to prepare solely for one event at the Olympics was really tough.


“To finally reach the end of that journey and walk away with a medal was pretty damn special and albeit it wasn’t the colour medal we all wanted but it was still special to have something to walk away with.”

The arrival of fatherhood with the birth of his daughter Olivia in February of this year was a new element in the preparation for his debut Olympics, with Howard noting how his perspectives changed from that point on.

“Becoming a father definitely changed things but for me it made things easier and harder in different ways,” he said.

“It gave me new motivation each morning I woke up to make her proud but for obvious reasons it also had its difficulties.”

The 32-year-old has returned to Geelong post-Tokyo and has enjoyed working opposite his father, Murray.

“I have always believed things will present themselves when they are ready ... working with my father has been really nice,” he said.

Leigh Howard

“It’s the trade I did when I was young, so to come full circle back to this is a nice feeling - having a routine is also really nice.

“As for the years to come, I am getting into some coaching now, I have a few guys already but am looking to take on more soon and see if I can pass on some of my experience to other cyclists.”

Looking back over his career, Howard said he departs the sport with fulfilment.

“I was quite lucky to tick most of the boxes I wanted to tick in my career. Of course, the athlete in me always wanted more but in the end, I achieved a lot and am proud of what I was able to do,” he said.

“There is always a huge list of people to thank and without some of them I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

“They all know who they are and from the bottom of my heart, I thank them all for allowing me to chase my dream from a kid to a father.

“Over and out. Leigh.”

Leigh Howard and Cameron Meyer

Career snapshot


Olympic Games

  • Olympian (2020)

  • Olympic Bronze (2020 – Team Pursuit)

World Championships

  • 4x Track World Champion (2009 – Omnium; 2010, 2011 – Madison; 2019 – Team Pursuit)

  • 9x Track World Championship medals

Commonwealth Games

  • Commonwealth Games (2018)

  • Commonwealth Games Gold (2018 – Team Pursuit)

National Championships (Elite)

  • 7x National Champion

  • 14x Track National Championships medals


  • 7 years as a WorldTour rider

  • 15x UCI wins

  • 5x Grand Tours

Sam Welsford and Leigh Howard

Pictures: Argon 18, Getty, AAP, Andy Rogers (Fame and Spear)

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