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Romain Sicard retires due to a cardiac anomaly

Romain Sicard at the 2020 Tour de France
Romain Sicard at the 2020 Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Total Direct Énergie rider and former U23 world champion Romain Sicard has been forced into retirement at the age of 33, he announced on Friday.

The Frenchman had yet to make his season debut this year and revealed the reason in an open letter on Twitter, saying that he has been diagnosed with a cardiac anomaly.

Sicard, who hails from Bayonne in the French Basque Country, turned pro with Euskaltel-Euskadi in 2010, spending four years there before moving to Europcar and remaining there until his retirement.

"I no longer have the heart to ride," Sicard wrote. "Indeed, I have been diagnosed with a cardiac anomaly that will prevent me from practicing sport at a high level and therefore from continuing my career as a professional cyclist.

"I am happy to turn a page in my life, as this sport has given me so much during the last 20 years. It has been my job, but above all it has remained a passion. I would even say that it has contributed to my education as it represents the school of life."

Sicard is far from the first rider to suffer cardiac problems this year. Elia Viviani, Zdenek Štybar and Diego Ulissi have all been forced off the bike for spells relating to various heart conditions, but none serious enough to end their careers. In 2016, Michael Rogers retired at 36 due to a congenital heart defect.

The high point of Sicard's career came in the season before he ascended to the professional ranks, in 2009. Racing for Orbea and France, the then-21-year-old won the Tour de l'Avenir by one second ahead of Tejay van Garderen before going on to solo to victory at the U23 Worlds road race in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

In doing so, he became the only man to win both in the same season. He also won the penultimate edition of the Subida al Naranco one-day race earlier in the year. Since turning pro, Sicard came closest to victory at the 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné, finishing second in Risoul on stage 2. In 2014 he finished 13th Vuelta a España, his top Grand Tour result.

General manager of Total Direct Énergie, Jean-René-Bernaudeau paid tribute to Sicard, revealing that a medical check-up carried out by the French Cycling Federation (FFC) detected Sicard's condition.

"The FFC's medical check-up revealed that Romain had a heart condition that was incompatible with continuing to ride as a professional cyclist," he said. "The news was hard to take. I was waiting for good news and unfortunately it didn't come.

"Romain is a very honest and reliable guy who represents the spirit of the Basque Country. He was the U23 world champion and participated in seven Tours de France with us, which is not nothing. He was entirely part of our plan for the next Tour.

"Now it's his health first. I talked to him and said that real life is starting now."

Sicard thanked his team, family and supporters, and added that he will remain linked to cycling, adding that the "new challenge of reinventing myself" awaits after his retirement from racing.

"Of course, everything was not always perfect and easy, but I am proud to have done the bike that I love by respecting my values and keeping the pleasure as the main engine. I leave with no regrets.

"My journey is an example that with a good dose of work and dedication many dreams are possible. The passion doesn't stop, I will certainly remain linked to the world of cycling."

Read below for a translation of Sicard's open letter.

I no longer have the heart to ride.

Indeed, I have been diagnosed with a cardiac anomaly that will prevent me from practicing sport at a high level and therefore from continuing my career as a professional cyclist.

I am happy to turn a page in my life, as this sport has given me so much during the last 20 years. Lastly, it has been my job but above all it has remained a passion.

I would even say that it has contributed to my education as it represents the school of life. It was like a long journey on two wheels, rich in flavours, emotions and above all encounters, just like my team, Total Direct Énergie, which has become my second family. Thank you to them.

I will never thank enough my partner, my family, my relatives and a good number of people who accompanied me along this rather mountainous road.

It is also with a touch of pride that I hang up the bike. Of course, everything was not always perfect and easy, but I am proud to have done the bike that I love by respecting my values and keeping the pleasure as the main engine. I leave with no regrets.

I also had the privilege to race the most beautiful races over the years. This is why I would like to leave a message to all the young people who love this sport. My journey is an example that with a good dose of work and dedication many dreams are possible. The passion doesn't stop, I will certainly remain linked to the world of cycling.

So the game is over. Because life is not a game. I am fortunate to have been able to benefit from the monitoring set up by the FFC and the expertise of the best cardiologists to protect my health.

A new and very special experience awaits me, a new challenge, that of reinventing myself.

A good trip to all

Romain Sicard

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Daniel joined Cyclingnews as staff writer in August 2019 after working as a freelance journalist for seven years, including time spent working for Cyclingnews and sister magazine, Procycling.