Niels Albert has been forced to end his cyclo-cross career due to cardiac arrhythmia problems. The 28-year old Belgian has the condition which, when in competition, could cause a fatal heart attack. "Much sooner than I had anticipated I have to end my career," the two times world champion declared emotionally at a press conference.
Albert won world titles as a junior, U23 rider and twice as an elite cyclo-cross rider. His first title was in Hoogerheide in 2009 where he beat Zdenek Stybar and Sven Nys. His second world title was in front of the enthusiastic home crowds in Koksijde in 2012 where he beat compatriots Rob Peeters and Kevin Pauwels. Albert also won the World Cup twice. He has a total of 79 elite cyclo-cross victories on his palmares.
"I felt that after my first six years as a pro everything started falling into place. I will have to find solace in the fact that my sport has given me so much and that it made so many people happy. I have given my all for my sport," The BKCP Powerplus rider read out from a written statement.
During a routine pre-season check the doctors in Antwerp found the problem and a second check in the hospital in Leuven confirmed that his heart could have a fatal heart attack during high intensity competition.
"I cursed the doctors in the past few weeks but now I know that their check-ups mean that I will have a long life. In these hard circumstances I want to thank everyone who were on my side during my career," Albert declared before leaving the room in tears.
"Even in mild exercise his arrhythmia is quite severe. There is no medical solution to this problem," Alberts doctor added. "We want to keep monitoring him permanently and even with the slightest change he needs to report back to us."
Sven Nys reacted on his twitter page. "I am dumbfounded watching this press conference. I have no words."
Bart Wellens reacted with: "Good luck Niels and Chantal. This is a blow but health is paramount."
Sven Vanthourenhout added: "This is hard and but human decision by Niels Albert. Realization will only come in September."