An irregular heartbeat was detected when Ulissi underwent routine pre-season health checks and a subsequent MRI scan revealed that the Italian was suffering from myocarditis.
In a statement on Monday, UAE Team Emirates said that Ulissi will undergo a rest period of “a few months” and he will be withheld from competition for an indefinite length of time.
“Diego underwent the normal health checks required by the UCI and the team. Subjectively he was fine and did not feel any disturbance, but the finding of an irregular heartbeat during a physical exertion, not previously present, gave us some doubt,” said team doctor Michele De Grandi.
“Even with a normal ultrasound appearance, two new tests (Holter ECG 24 hours, which highlighted further arrhythmias, and a cardiac MRI scan) have drawn a conclusion of myocarditis.
“Myocarditis is an inflammation of the myocardial tissue, the heart muscle, usually of viral origin. As a precaution, Ulissi will undergo a period of absolute rest for a few months, during which he will carry out in-depth investigations to further clarify the clinical picture.”
Ulissi admitted to concern on learning of his diagnosis, which he said had had come as a surprise.
“I cannot hide the feeling of worry and anger. I’ve never had any sign of it, I’ve always felt good. Fortunately, the team’s medical staff were quick to act and discovered this abnormality,” said Ulissi. “I will take a break now which I hope will be temporary, bearing in mind that the priority is health, because life does not end with cycling.
The 31-year-old enjoyed a fine 2020 season, winning two stages at the Giro d’Italia at Agrigento and Monselice, as well as the general classification at the Tour of Luxembourg. He also placed second overall at the Tour Down Under and finished on the podium at both Gran Piemonte and the Giro dell’Emilia. He signed a two-year contract extension with UAE Team Emirates before the season resumed in August.
“I have just finished what has perhaps been my best season ever, with a consistent run of high-level performances from January to October which also earned me the top ten in the UCI individual ranking.
"I was already beginning my preparation for 2021 with the desire to build on last year’s results,” he said. “Now, however, I find myself facing this unexpected situation. I think my state of mind is understandable for everyone.”
Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday, Ulissi confirmed that his heart problem was not related to COVID-19.
"The doctors will do further examinations to understand the cause but we can exclude the coronavirus: I've done several blood tests and I haven't developed the antibodies."
"I'll do more tests in January but with the right care and attention. I still feel i'm an athlete. If I can, I'll be back racing with more determination than ever. However the future seems out of view and I want to focus on the present. I'm going to spend the holidays with my family."
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