Nathan Van Hooydonck has retired from professional cycling after he was fitted with an internal defibrillator to prevent any future cardiac arrhythmia.
The Jumbo-Visma rider suffered a heart problem last Tuesday which caused him to crash his car; after being put into an induced coma, the Belgian has now been able to leave hospital, but has been forced to step away from cycling.
The Jumbo press release reads: "After thorough testing, Van Hooydonck was diagnosed with a heart muscle anomaly that caused the disorder that nearly claimed his life, Tuesday last week. The findings mean the end to Van Hooydonck's professional career."
"I realise that I was incredibly lucky", Van Hooydonck said in a statement. "Things may have gone differently if I hadn't gotten good help so quickly. I'm fine now, but I still have to deal with the fact that this marks the end of my professional career.
"I would like to express my gratitude to the people who helped me, the medical team at the hospital and all the fans who sent me messages. I will now focus on my recovery and my upcoming fatherhood.
"Everything is going well with Alicia and the pregnancy, and we eagerly anticipate the birth. That really helps me now."
According to Belgian media, the 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider was waiting at a junction in the town of Kalhmthout, north of Antwerp with his pregnant wife in the passenger seat last Tuesday. He had a heart problem while at the junction, which caused an accidental acceleration into traffic.
Van Hooydonck was resuscitated at the scene before being taken to Antwerp University Hospital along with his wife, who escaped serious injury.
By Tuesday evening, Van Hooydonck was awake and without serious injury, according to Jumbo-Visma, but has now been fitted with a defibrillator, and so cannot continue as a professional cyclist. It is similar to the device Italian cyclist Sonny Colbrelli had fitted last year.
Jumbo-Visma asked for space for Van Hooydonck and his family as he continues his recovery. At the Vuelta a España, which the team dominated, Van Hooydonck was visibly in the thoughts of its riders; Jonas Vingegaard said his victory on stage 16 was dedicated to him.
The 27-year-old turned professional with BMC in 2016, and joined Jumbo-Visma in 2021 after the collapse of CCC. He emerged into a key domestique in both the Classics and at the Tour de France for the team, supporting Wout van Aert in particular. A Jumbo-Visma rider, either Primož Roglič or Jonas Vingegaard, won every one of the three Grand Tours that Van Hooydonck started.
His one win was a stage of a the under-23 race Ronde de l'Oise, but he also finished second in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne this year, and 11th at the Tour of Flanders. His last race was the Tour of Britain, where he helped Van Aert to overall victory.
Great friend, loyal team player, amazing bike rider 💛 pic.twitter.com/Atek25Mu3PSeptember 20, 2023
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