Gianni Meersman forced to retire with heart issue

Routine medical check discovers that Belgian rider Gianni Meersman has a heart condition, and he immediately retires from professional cycling

Gianni Meersman wins stage five of the Vuelta a España (Watson)
(Image credit: Watson)

Double 2016 Vuelta a España stage winner Gianni Meersman has been forced to bring his professional cycling career to a premature end after a routine medical check discovered that he had a heart condition.

It was discovered that the 31-year-old Belgian had a cardiac arrhythmia and scar tissue on his heart during a medical check, as Meersman prepared to switch from the Etixx-QuickStep team to Fortuneo-Vital Concept for 2017.

After further tests, doctors advised Meersman to stop competing at a professional level with immediate effect, due to the risk that the condition posed to his long-term health.

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"When this abnormal cardiac assessment was discovered a few weeks ago, it was obviously a real shock," Meersman said in a statement issued by the Fortuneo team on December 30.

"In the meantime, I had additional tests and scans, but they confirmed that this health risk would persist if I continued to cycle at a high level, so the specialists advised me to end my active career."

Meersman continued: "Compared to my wife and daughter, who put everything aside during my career, I can not and will not take such a risk. Cycling was not only my profession but also my passion, and so it was with great pain that I made this decision."

Meersman thanked his fans and friends for their support on Twitter, saying: "I want to thank each and every one of you for your support and your kind words during this difficult period. I also want to thank the people who believed in me during my career. Who were always there for me, unconditionally."

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In addition to his two sprint stage wins at the 2016 Vuelta – his first Grand Tour stage victories – Meersman won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and Handzame Classic in 2015. He also counts stage wins in Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie, Volta ao Algarve and Volta a Catalunya in his palmares, as well as overall victory in the 2014 Tour de Wallonie.

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