Elia Viviani will spend two weeks off the bike after undergoing surgery to treat a cardiac arrhythmia in Ancona on Wednesday. The Cofidis rider has expressed hope that he will still be able to begin his season as planned at the UAE Tour in late February.
Viviani first noticed the anomaly in his heart rate while training in the hills of Valpolicella near Verona on Sunday, having completed a training camp with his Cofidis team in Spain the previous week. He contacted Dr. Roberto Corsetti, his former team doctor at Liquigas, and he was assessed that evening in Imola.
Corsetti subsequently referred Viviani to the Riuniti hospital in Ancona, where he was assessed by Professor Antonio Dello Russo. Viviani underwent an ablation on Wednesday and he was due to be released from hospital on Thursday.
"I was afraid," Viviani told La Gazzetta dello Sport, confirming that he had already left the Cofidis training camp before experiencing heart palpitations.
"I had come back from the training camp in Benidorm and on Sunday I was training in the hills on my roads around Verona. It was classic strength-resistance work at 140-150 beats per minute when I felt palpitations and my heartrate went up really quickly, above 220 beats per minute in about 20 seconds."
Viviani immediately called Corsetti and then spent an hour or so soft-pedalling home. "I can’t tell you want went through my head in those moments – why it happened, what could have happened… I’d never ever had something like that," said Viviani, who underwent a maximum heartrate test at Corsetti’s clinic in Imola that evening.
When that effort reproduced the same cardiac arrhythmia, he travelled onwards to Ancona. After further testing in Ancona, Viviani underwent a right atrial ablation on Wednesday.
"I’m very calm because I’m in expert hands. I hope everything sorts itself out as soon as possible," said Viviani. "I’ll have 15 days of rest, then I’ll do another test and if the arrhythmia doesn’t repeat itself, then I’ll start again. In this moment, the priority was my health, not the sportsman."
Viviani’s fellow professional Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) was also at the Riuniti hospital in Ancona this week after he was diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, in December. UAE Team Emirates described Ulissi’s initial prognosis as "positive" and expressed hope that he would be able to return to make a "progressive recovery".
Like Ulissi, Viviani confirmed that his heart problem was not linked to COVID-19.
"I did all the tests, the molecular swabs and the serological tests. They were all negative, I never came into contact with the virus," said Viviani.
The 31-year-old Italian will hope to defend his omnium title at the Tokyo Olympics this summer, while his Cofidis team said in a statement on Thursday that Viviani "is determined to make the colours of Cofidis shine from February on the roads of the UAE Tour."
Speaking to Tuttobici, Viviani expressed confidence that his racing schedule would remain unchanged despite this week’s surgery.
"Tomorrow I’m going back to Monte Carlo and in the coming days, we’ll try to understand how and when I can start work again," he said.
"I can tell you that my programme remains the same, starting with the UAE Tour, then Tirreno-Adriatico and the Classics. My condition was good before this stop, so I’m calm and also determined to have the season of redemption that I need."
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