Michael Rogers to miss Tour Down Under over heart issue

Known congenital defect may have worsened, team says

Michael Rogers, the Australian captain of the Tinkoff-Saxo team, will not be able to race in January's Santos Tour Down Under after medical checks revealed a potential worsening of a known heart defect.

Rogers was disappointed with the news, but hopes to be back in action soon. “My first stage win and overall victory in the professional ranks was at the 2002 Tour Down Under, so I’m disappointed I will not be present for next year’s edition," Rogers said. “I look forward to being back doing what I adore most – trying to win bike races for myself and my teammates."

Rogers, 35, was diagnosed with a congenital bicuspid aortic valve, a defect that leads to heart murmur and possible fatigue. Most people with the disorder see a progression in symptoms that require surgery to repair the valve in their 30s or 40s.

Tinkoff team doctor Piet De Moor said Rogers has been under constant observation from cardiologists. A routine echo-cardiogram during the off-season medical checks picked up a possible progression in the condition.

"The aortic valve plays a crucial role in cardiac output by preventing blood from re-entering the left ventricle from the main artery," De Moor said. "Due to the Michael’s bicuspid formation, the valve is prevented from sealing perfectly, causing a small amount of blood to return back into the left ventricle."

Until he can undergo further examinations, Rogers has been put on moderate training intensity and will be kept out of racing until given the all clear.

“Michael and team management have taken the decision to withdraw from Tour Down Under and the Australian National championships. Michael will again be a crucial member of our core squad when he returns to his top fitness level," said Steven de Jongh, Head Sport Director of Tinkoff-Saxo.

Rogers had the best season of his career in 2014, when he won two stages of the Giro d'Italia and one in the Tour de France. This year he helped Alberto Contador to his Giro d'Italia overall victory, and supported the team in the Tour de France.

Rogers is not the only rider to get bad news about his heart during the off-season: Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) underwent surgery to correct an issue after off-season checks detected rhythm abnormalities.

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