Vansummeren retires from cycling due to heart problem

Belgian announces departure from the sport after months spent on the sidelines

Johan Vansummeren (AG2R-La Mondiale) has called an end to his 12-year career due to heart problems. Vansummeren was diagnosed with a heart anomaly earlier this season and has been forced to sit on the sidelines since February, missing the cobbled Classics.

There had already been speculation in the Belgian press this week around Vansummeren's future in the sport but that was put to rest on Wednesday morning.

With his wife Jasmine at his side, a tearful Vansummeren announced during a press conference in his hometown of Lommel, Belgium that he would quit professional racing. His AG2R-La Mondiale team confirmed it in a statement.

"I am really sad to stop my career because of medical reasons but my health is more important than cycling ambitions," Vansummeren said in the statement issued by the team. "Over the last few months I have done many medical tests. Then, two surgical interventions put a name on my health issue. From now, my state of health requires repeated health checks and forced me to end career."

The heart condition was discovered during routine checks ahead of the season. He was given the go ahead to race although he had to wear a heart monitor. Vansummeren completed his opening race of the season at the Tour of Qatar but was forced to abandon the Tour of Oman when the monitor registered irregularities. He has been unable to ride since then.

Vansummeren turned professional in 2004 with the Relax Bodysol team before moving to Davitamon-Lotto for the following season. As a Belgian, Vansummeren was brought up on the Classics and his biggest success came when he won the 2011 Paris-Roubaix, a feat that he was unable to repeat. After five seasons with the Garmin squad, Vansummeren joined AG2R-La Mondiale for 2015 on a two-year contract, which was due to run out at the end of this season.

"I spent 13 exceptional seasons in professional cycling that allowed me to make a living from my passion," said Vansummeren. "I did tremendous physical efforts to ride among the best riders as well. I even had the benefit to win Paris-Roubaix which was the race I dreamt of. For sure, this victory will remain as my best memory in professional cycling.

"I also would like to thank my family and friends who have always been there for me in both good and bad moments of my career. Obviously, I won't forget my supporters and the AG2R La Mondiale team in which I lived two seasons of great human experiences."

Vansummeren is the second rider this season to be forced into retirement due to heart problems. Michael Rogers also stepped away from the sport after being diagnosed at the start of the season. In recent seasons, Nick Nuyens, Robert Gesink, Klaas Lodewyck, Olivier Kaisen and Niels Albert have all suffered with heart problems. While Gesink was able to return to racing, others were forced to leave the sport.

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