MTN-Qhubeka's Adrien Niyonshuti was set to travel to Europe to take part in the new Professional Continental team's quest for international results, but instead finds himself sidelined for much of the season due to deep vein thrombosis.
The Rwandan champion noticed some swelling in his right calf and was diagnosed with DVT, a clot in a vein in the leg, as well as a pulmonary embolism, another clot in the lungs.
Because the treatment involves taking blood thinners, Niyonshuti will not be allowed to take part in any races and is out for an indefinite period.
Dr. Jon Patrios, the MTN-Qhubeka physician, explained, “In a situation like this the immediate and long-term health of the athlete takes absolute precedence over the disappointment associated with the team losing one of our high profile riders. Team MTN-Qhubeka’s medical network will continue to investigate possible intrinsic causes of Adrien’s illness and monitor his recovery while striving to facilitate his return to high level cycling."
Many riders wear compression gear when traveling to reduce the risk of clots, but team principal Doug Ryder said the doctors feel that this measure would not have made a difference.
"He is very lucky as we got him hospitalised the day before he was expected to leave to Italy which could have been fatal," Ryder told Cyclingnews.
The team has been posting strong results in Langkawi, where it leads the team classification, and has placed riders in the top 10 of several early-season races in Europe, but Niyonshuti was seen to be a key rider for the team's European campaign. His story of surviving the genocide in Rwanda and going on to achieve a high level in the sport was also an inspirational tale which helped to highlight the growth of cycling in Africa.
"We are not sure about a replacement for him as we still do have 20 riders but we will see over the next few weeks," Ryder said. "With the weather being so bad we have some riders getting sick which is scary but we will try and push through."
According to the team, Niyonshuti will head home to Rwanda where he will work with his cycling academy to help develop more talent from his home country.