Following medical advice, Sonny Colbrelli will retire from professional cycling after being fitted with a defibrillator following his collapse shortly after finishing stage 1 of the Volta a Catalunya on March 21.
“A year ago in this period, I spent my days celebrating the most important victory of my career, Paris-Roubaix. I never thought that I would find myself a year later to face one of the most challenging moments that life has thrown at me. But it is my life that I want to be grateful for, a life that I risked losing and that gave me a second chance,” Colbrelli explained through a statement published by his team, Bahrain.
“The one of being here today, to remember that I emerged victorious from the Hell of the North, and I did it in a legendary way, which will go down in history and that I will be able to continue telling about it to my children. It is to them, to my family and to all the people closest to me that I owe this new life of mine. I am drawing strength from them to accept this moment in my sports career that sees me here today to give up being able to add a victory in a Grand Tour or Flanders to my record, a lifelong dream”.
Immediately assisted by medical staff supported by Borja Saenz de Cos at the finish line in Catalunya, Colbrelli was taken by ambulance to the Hospital Universitari de Girona for further investigation of his condition. Medical checks confirmed that the cyclist suffered from an unstable cardiac arrhythmia that required defibrillation.
Subsequently, Colbrelli was transferred to the Cardiology Clinic of the University of Padua, where he underwent a cardiovascular clinical evaluation coordinated by Professor Domenico Corrado. Based on the results of the clinical evaluation, according to the rider and team medical staff, Sonny Colbrelli underwent a successful subcutaneous defibrillator (ICD) implantation procedure; a life-saving device that works to correct the rhythm of the heart if necessary in extreme cases.
“After what happened in Catalunya, the hope of being able to continue being a professional rider has never abandoned me, even if it is minimal. He knew that the way back would be difficult with a defibrillator. In Italy, it is not allowed by law. With the support of the team's medical staff, led by Dr. Zaccaria, I didn't give up anyway. I resumed cycling under strict medical supervision and underwent several visits and consultations with specialists in the sector. Among them, the director of the University Clinic of Padua, Prof. Corrado, who followed the implantation of the defibrillator. And those who have followed similar cases also made an assessment, such as that of the soccer player Christian Eriksen, who like me, has a defibrillator and has resumed his professional career. But cycling is not football. It is a different sport; you ride through the streets. It is not played on a soccer field, where, if necessary, the interventions of the medical team may be appropriate. Their training activities take place in a limited area, while in the case of a cyclist, you often find yourself alone for hours on little traveled roads.
This is precisely what makes it more difficult to take another path to be able to compete again. Withdraw the defibrillator. I admit I considered it. But as mentioned, cycling is different from soccer. For the reasons mentioned, but above all, also because of the intensity of the effort. But first of all, removing the defibrillator is against medical practice and means removing a lifeline that is necessary as secondary prevention. Too high a risk. A risk I cannot afford to take. For me, for the opportunity that life has given me, God in whom I believe. For Adelina, for Vittoria and for Tomaso. For my parents.
I say goodbye to cycling and I try to do it with a smile for the good it has done me, although it hurts me to say goodbye after a season like last year. That was the best of my career. I learned what life offers and what life takes. But it also returns in a different way. I am ready to keep trying to be a champion, like on the bike. I will stay in cycling with Bahrain Victorious, who have been close to me like a second family and will accompany me in this period of transition from a cyclist to a new role that will evolve daily. I will be an ambassador for our partners, working closely with the performance group and sharing my experience with my teammates.
I have loved seeing how the children have taken me as a model in recent months. Maybe, I tell myself, because the man covered in mud looks a bit like a superhero. For them, I would like to do something sooner or later. Meanwhile, I will also have the opportunity to be a reference for Team Bahrain Victorious and the development teams: Cycling Team Friuli and Cannibal U19.
New challenges await me and I bravely prepare myself to face them. I want to do it with a smile on my face. Please continue to rejoice in every trip I will take, even if it is just for fun and no longer for competition, ”she concluded.