Diego Ulissi has been forced to take a break from racing due to heart concerns.
The Italian had been strong all season, winning two stages of the Giro d’italia and racking up a collection of victories.
But while undergoing off-season health checks required by the UCI, UAE Team Emirates doctors discovered abnormalities during cardiac tests.
Dr Michele De Grandi said: “Diego underwent the normal health checks required by the UCI and the team. Subjectively he was fine and did not feel any disturbance, but the finding of an irregular heartbeat during a physical exertion, not previously present, gave us some doubt. Even with a normal ultrasound appearance, two new tests (Holter ECG 24 hours, which highlighted further arrhythmias, and a cardiac MRI scan) have drawn a conclusion of myocarditis.”
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and is usually caused by a virus.
Treatment can often involve medication, while people with myocarditis are often told to avoid exercise during recovery.
Ulissi, 31, said he will take a break from racing that he hopes is temporary, but is not sure when he will be back to competition.
He said: “I cannot hide the feeling of worry and anger. I’ve never had any sign of it, I’ve always felt good; Fortunately, the team’s medical staff were quick to act and discovered this abnormality. I will take a break now which I hope will be temporary, bearing in mind that the priority is health, because life does not end with cycling.
“I have just finished what has perhaps been my best season ever, with a consistent run of high level performances from January to October which also earned me the Top Ten in the UCI individual ranking. I was already beginning my preparation for 2021 with the desire to build on last year’s results.
“Now, however, I find myself facing this unexpected situation. I think my state of mind is understandable for everyone.
“A heartfelt thanks to all at UAE Team Emirates who are taking great care of me through this unfortunate time.”
Ulissi was strong this season, winning two stages and the overall at the Tour de Luxembourg before adding to his tally of Giro d’Italia stage wins, taking two victories in his home Grand Tour.