Olivier Kaisen retires from pro cycling with heart problem

Olivier Kaisen (Lotto-Belisol) forced to end professional cycling career due to heart problem

Olivier Kaisen
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Belgian Olivier Kaisen has ended his professional career with immediate effect due to a heart problem. Last night, the 30-year-old said that he felt too worried at the Tour Down Under to continue his job for Lotto-Belisol.

"After the second stage at the Tour Down Under I didn't feel well," Kaisen said in a press release. "It had been a very tiring and extremely hot day and I had ridden much at the head of the bunch for André Greipel. I did start the next stage, but immediately after the start of the third stage I felt something was wrong. I was scared and together with sports director Herman Frison I decided to quit. He said I couldn't take any risk."

Kaisen took off his red Lotto jersey after stopping in the stage. Results show that he pulled out in stage four to Victor Harbor on January 24.

His heart had been on his mind since November when as part of cycling's pre-season tests, doctors found an abnormality in his cardiac rhythm.

"I was actually surprised ... because I had never felt anything before," Kaisen said. "Luckily I got the permission to continue with cycling. At training camp in December I was able to train in perfect circumstances without any problem. Now I think my moderate season in 2013 might be caused by it."

According to Pro Cycling Stats, Kaisen raced 10,643.03 kilometres in 71 race days last year. He skipped the Grand Tours but helped sprinter André Greipel win in several smaller races like the Brussels Cycling Classic and the Tour of Turkey.

Last month, Greipel won in Victor Harbor and the final stage of the Tour Down Under in Adelaide. Kaisen returned home to Belgium to speak with more doctors.

"Doctors decided to monitor me four days long with a Holter, a portable device that constantly measures the electric activity of the heart during everyday circumstances, hoping to detect the problem this way," he said. "And on the third day I indeed felt again the same arrhythmia. When screening the electrocardiogram the doctors were able to clearly locate the time and type of the arrhythmia; unfortunately with drastic consequences."

Team Doctor Jan Mathieu said, "The results and conclusions didn't leave any room for doubts: to keep on cycling isn't an option."

Kaisen explained that he does not know what he will do next and that he feels "a bit lost." He joined Lotto in 2006 and cycled for the last 20 years.

"Oli has been in our team for eight years and that's why the mutual involvement is big," general manager, Marc Sergeant said. "On the other hand I'm also happy that these kinds of tests are obligatory. At Lotto Belisol we even go further and within our scientific approach our riders undergo an elaborate package of tests that have to enable us to detect possible problems of all kinds in an early stage.

"In the name of myself, all staff members and all riders I deeply want to thank Oli for all generous efforts as part of the team, for his numerous kilometres at the head of the bunch, for his personality and character within the team. We will do our best to assist him as good as possible during the next weeks and months and if possible to build the bridge to the next part of his life."

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.