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Aerts announces he will retire at the end of the season

Mario Aerts (Omega Pharma - Lotto)

Mario Aerts (Omega Pharma - Lotto) (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)

Mario Aerts (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has decided to retire from the sport at the end of the season, citing his heart arrhythmia as a major factor in his decision. The 36 year-old has a contract until the end of 2012 but feels that it is the right time to hang up the bike.

"The division of Omega Pharma-Lotto," he told Het Nieuwsblad, "and the heart problems [I’ve faced] made me decide that enough is enough."

Aerts had stopped riding in April when his cardiac problem got worse. It has improved enough that he plans to ride the Belgian championships the end of this month.

The Belgian has been a domestique for most of his career, and his career highlight came in 2002 with a victory in La Fleche Wallone. That win was also the last time the Belgium has stepped on top of the podium.

In recent years, Aerts has been a key lieutenant to Cadel Evans [now at BMC], and Philippe Gilbert, however 15 years in the professional peloton have finally taken their toll. Fittingly, the modest Belgian wants no fanfare to send him off, he will simply ride his last race, and that will be it.

"I will not party; I don’t want a special criterium. I will ride my last race and maybe have a glass of champagne," said Aerts.