Sonny Colbrelli officially retires, months after cardiac arrhythmia scare

Former Paris-Roubaix winner speaks of "second chance", as he steps back from pro cycling

Sonny Colbrelli
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sonny Colbrelli has stepped back from professional cycling, seven months after suffering an unstable cardiac arrhythmia at the Volta a Catalunya.

The Italian rider collapsed almost immediately after crossing the finish line in second of the first stage of the Volta a Catalunya on March 21, with his  Bahrain-Victorious  team later confirming that he had suffered an unstable cardiac arrhythmia. Medics attended to the Italian within seconds of his collapse, performing CPR and using a defibrillator to treat him.

Colbrelli subsequently spent time in a Girona hospital, before being transferred to the Cardiology Clinic of the University of Padua in Italy on Saturday March 26, a centre extremely adept at diagnosing and treating arrhythmogenic heart muscle diseases. He was later fitted with a subcutaneous defibrillator (ICD), similar to the one footballer Christian Eriksen has.

Cycling's governing body, the UCI, does not have a formal policy on the matter, but Italian law prohibits athletes to compete in elite sport if they have been fitted with a defibrillator. This essentially forced Colbrelli's hand, even if he had wanted to continue in the sport.

The Italian won the Autumn Paris-Roubaix last year, and also won the European Championship road race. In his retirement message, he said he was disappointed to end his career without winning a Grand Tour stage or the Tour of Flanders.

“I say goodbye to cycling and try to do it with a smile for the good it gave me, even if it hurts to say goodbye after a season like last year. That was the best of my career.” Colbrelli said in a team statement, released on Sunday.

“I learned what life offers and what life takes. But it also gives back in a different form. I’m ready to keep trying to be a champion, like on the bike.”

“New challenges await me, and with courage, I prepare to face them with a smile on my face. Continue to rejoice in every ride I will do, even if only for fun and no longer for competition,” he continued.

“A year ago in this period, I spent my days celebrating the most important victory of my career, Paris-Roubaix. I never thought I would find myself a year later to face one of the most challenging moments that life has put me in front of,”

“But it’s my life that I want to be grateful for, a life I risked losing and which gave me a second chance. That of being here today, to remember that I came out of the Hell of the North as a winner, and I did it in a legendary way, which will remain in history and that I will be able to continue to tell my children. It is to them, my family and all the people closest to me that I owe this new life of mine. 

“From them, I am drawing the strength to accept this moment of my sporting career that sees me here today to give up being able to add to my palmarés a victory in a Grand Tour or [the Tour of] Flanders, a lifelong dream.”

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