2021 Paris-Roubaix winner Sonny Colbrelli will watch this year’s race on television, from his home near Brescia in Italy, his near-fatal cardiac arrest at the Volta Catalunya changing his life forever but leaving him happy just to be alive.
On Thursday evening he posted a clip of a first slow sunset bike ride on Instagram and has recently visited the Italian national squad riders training on the Montichiari velodrome not far from his home.
He has posted lots of memories of his Paris-Roubaix victory but also photographs of his young son. He is enjoying simply being alive and being a father, at home with his family, instead of away at races and training camps.
“Lots of people ask me how I am and I reply: I’m happy, I’m with my son and my family,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport in an exclusive interview.
“There’s not much else to say, I feel lucky, very lucky. And I’m not just saying that.
“We all know that life is temporary. We never think about it, especially when our lives are full and busy, like the lifestyle of a pro cyclist. Indeed, when I woke up in hospital, I struggled to realise what had happened, it was initially difficult to believe and accept.
“At first I was angry and asked: ‘Why me?’ and 'What did I do to deserve this?’ but they’re questions that are impossible to answer.”
Colbrelli recently had a subcutaneous defibrillator inserted below his collarbone, the device ready to reset his heart if he suffers another sudden cardiac arrest.
Italian sports doctors refuse to issue licences to any athlete fitted with such a device and many people have speculated that Colbrelli’s career could be over. Other athletes like Danish soccer player Christian Eriksen have been allowed to play at a professional level in Britain but the controlled environment and the demands of football are very different to that of professional cycling.
Colbrelli is hugely grateful to the race medical staff who saved his life beyond the finish line in Sant Feliu de Guíxols and the doctors and hospital staff who treated him in Spain and then in Italy.
“I’ll always thank the medical team, my family and my Bahrain Victorious team. They’ve been fantastic and have always been there for me. They’re helping me see the other side of life, which is a lot better simply because I’m alive,” he said.
“I’m at the start of my next journey in life. Of course there will be a point where we’ll have to evaluate things and make some big decisions but there’s time for that.
“I’ve read a lot of things about my situation but who knows what the future holds? For now, I’m just happy to be here and I’m enjoying every second of my life."
Colbrelli has recently published a book, written over the winter with well-known author Marco Pastonesi. It was finished before his suffered the unstable cardiac arrhythmia that led to sudden cardiac arrest.
“The message of the book is the same as before my problems: never give up, whatever happens,” Colbrelli said.
“I’m determined to carry on living, looking back is useless. The future is synonymous with hope.”
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