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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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.