Mario Aerts has decided to undergo a heart operation in the middle of the cycling season. The Omega Pharma-Lotto rider has been struggling with cardiac arrythmia for years, but now the problem has become worse.
"I have had problems with my heartbeat for more than ten years already, but the doctors said it was nothing abnormal," Aerts told news agency Belga. "So I never worried about it."
Recently, however, the 36-year-old noticed that his cardiac arrythmia had increased recently. "When I sprinted up a hill, it got worse. It was more often, too, which started to make me nervous. Doctors in Leuven told me that I could continue racing, but if I fainted I should report it immediately. Well, I don't want to faint on my bike when I'm riding at 60 km/h! I'm 36, and I don't want to take any risks anymore at this point in my career, which is why I'm going to undergo surgery."
The plan is to insert electrodes to his heart to see whether a heart nerve might be over-active. If this is the case, the nerve will be cauterized and the problem solved.
The surgery is scheduled for May 24, but Aerts wants to get it done even earlier in the faint hope of still being able to participate in the Tour de France as a helper for Jurgen Van Den Broeck. If everything goes well, he'll be able to take to the bike again one week after the operation.
"[Doing] the Tour is going to be difficult, even if I can start riding again in May. I haven't been racing since the beginning of March, so it's not going to be easy to get back in top shape. If I don't make it, then it'll of course be a shame for Jurgen Van Den Broeck. I'm his roommate, and we've already been planning all the training camps towards the Tour."