Triggered by a crash and associated trauma? Brought on by subsequent medication? Or just going to happen one day anyway? We are only guessing.
The BMC Racing Team today announced that it has removed its Belgian rider Klaas Lodewyck from competition after he experienced irregular heart rhythms during racing and training.
"He had been experiencing some irregular heart rhythm during racing and training," team doctor Max Testa said. "We have been investigating it, first by having him evaluated by sports cardiologists in Belgium. The common decision between a specialist there and the BMC Racing Team's
medical staff is to rest Klaas for an undetermined amount of time while a thorough investigation is performed." BMC's Lodewyck sidelined with cardiac arrhythmia | Cyclingnews.com
Point is, it can happen anytime, to anyone. Cyclingnews lists a few more...
Lodewyck is not the only rider to suffer from cardiac arrhythmia - former cyclo-cross world champion Niels Albert was forced to retire prematurely because of heart problems, and Belkin's Robert Gesink stopped racing in June to have an arrhythmia treated. Other riders who have had cardiac issues in recent years include Nick Nuyens, Haimar Zubeldia, Nicolas Vogondy, Nicolas Portal and Kim Kirchen.
Not surprisingly they didn't mention me. Whilst I can't speak for any of the above-named, I can of course speak for myself. I have ridden over 300,000km in racing and training, a very small amount of it at state "open" level but mostly at all levels of club racing. I never imagined that my heart would ever give me trouble. Even when I started to get the odd 'feeling' I dismissed it. And whilst I pushed myself pretty hard - as hard as my limited training time allowed - I rarely felt as though I had pushed "too" hard. Maybe sometimes, but isn't that what you are supposed to do? I always trained 'properly' before racing. I did my base miles. I even ate well, mostly, and hardly ever drank alcohol.
I guess I managed pretty well what I could control. Or so I thought. (Hypertension and stress might be things that I could have controlled a bit better, though.) The other factors - those out of my control - included my genetic predisposition. And in hindsight that's a pretty big one. Cardiac issues on both sides of my family should have given me a hint.
Coupled with starting a family a bit later than most and juggling racing, training, work and that growing family, I was probably cutting things a little fine. And when I then started at university intending to pick up a mature-age degree or two, I noticed that my health was going a little awry... aren't warning signs wonderful?
Only if you read them right! Naturally I thought, "it's stress" and decided to make things better by cranking up the pace - let's get this degree thing over and done with sooner rather than later. Probably not the right choice, but it was the choice I made. And thus an "unexpected" illness arrived in my life, coupled with medication that did nothing positive for my existing, if somewhat hidden, cardiac risk factors.
Of course I didn't ask for a heart attack. Indeed I thought that riding and racing would protect me from such a thing. But I was wrong. It doesn't have to be an outright ischaemia, it can be a mild arrhythmia. But with only one heart allocation per person it's better to listen carefully to your body and assess all of the factors involved. Life is a balance of positives and negatives. Striking the right balance is vital.