The Belkin team confirmed today that Dutch rider Robert Gesink will temporarily stop racing due to repeated cardiac arrhythmia episodes, but Gesink himself stated that he intends to return once his health issues are sorted out.
Gesink held a press conference in which he described being terribly afraid of the attacks that have plagued him for several years.
The fear came to a head during the 2013 Giro d'Italia, where an attack happened during a mountain stage. "That time it was accompanied by hyperventilation," Gesink said today. "It's extremely distressing. Anyone who has experienced a hyperventilation attack knows it does not feel very good."
The Belkin team said that they will "fully support Robert during this period, and will give him all the time he needs to recover", although doctors have not found any reason for him to stop racing.
In 2010, Gesink's father died as a result of a mountain bike crash, and the Dutch press has speculated that the stress of that tragedy has compounded his heart problems. However, Gesink has had the arrhythmias throughout his career, even at the time when he was turning out his best results.
The 27-year-old opted to skip the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday to try to find solutions to the cardiac problem which causes his heart rate to skyrocket and not come down after the physical exertion has stopped.
"My ambition is to get fully healed up and then come back to the highest level," Gesink said. He has visited with cardiologists yesterday and today, and said they told him a procedure to "burn away something from my heart" would fix the issue, allowing him to return to the top of the sport. American Bobby Julich underwent a similar procedure, called cardiac ablation, in the years prior to his podium finish at the 1998 Tour de France.
"The Belkin Pro Cycling team has full confidence that Robert will be able to continue to perform at the highest level and that he will leave this difficult problem behind him," a team press release stated.