Two-time world cyclocross champion, Niels Albert, announced today, his retirement from the sport – citing cardiac arrhythmia problems.
Reading from a letter, the 28-year-old Belgian announced the news at an emotional press meeting in Leuven, Belgium.
“The bike has always been the biggest passion of my life, but after six years, I have to abruptly give up my professional life,” he said, according to a Sporza report.
“In these difficult circumstances, I would like to thank all those on my side: my family, friends, wife Chantal, the whole team and entourage, sponsors, supporters, all the organizers.
“The future is totally uncertain. My life was devoted to cycling. … Whether it’s business or in cycling, is still not today. All options are open.”
During a routine pre-season check, doctors discovered the problem, and subsequent testing confirmed the health risk that competition would impose on his heart.
"I cursed the doctors in the past few weeks but now I know that their check-ups mean that I will have a long life. In these hard circumstances I want to thank everyone who were on my side during my career," Albert declared before leaving the room in tears.
"Even in mild exercise his arrhythmia is quite severe. There is no medical solution to this problem," Alberts doctor added. "We want to keep monitoring him permanently and even with the slightest change he needs to report back to us."
Albert won world titles as a junior, U23 rider and twice as an elite cyclocross rider. His first title was in Hoogerheide in 2009 where he beat Zdenek Stybar and Sven Nys. His second world title was in Koksijde in 2012, where he beat fellow Belgians Rob Peeters and Kevin Pauwels. Albert also won the World Cup twice. He has a total of 79 elite cyclocross victories to his list of accomplishments.
"I felt that after my first six years as a pro everything started falling into place. I will have to find solace in the fact that my sport has given me so much and that it made so many people happy. I have given my all for my sport."
Sven Nys reacted on his twitter page. "I am dumbfounded watching this press conference. I have no words."
Bart Wellens reacted with: "Good luck Niels and Chantal. This is a blow but health is paramount."
Sven Vanthourenhout added: "This is hard and but human decision by Niels Albert. Realization will only come in September."
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