Sonny Colbrelli has retired from professional cycling in the aftermath of his collapse at the end of Stage 1 at the Volta a Catalunya.
Colbrelli had a defibrillator fitted following his collapse in the race on March 21 and released an emotional statement via the Bahrain Victorious website to reveal the news.
“A year ago in this period, I spent my days celebrating the most important victory of my career, Paris-Roubaix," he said in the statement. "I never thought I would find myself a year later to face one of the most challenging moments that life has put me in front of.
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“But it’s my life that I want to be grateful for, a life I risked losing and which gave me a second chance. That of being here today, to remember that I came out of the Hell of the North as a winner, and I did it in a legendary way, which will remain in history and that I will be able to continue to tell my children. It is to them, my family and all the people closest to me, that I owe this new life of mine.
“From them, I am drawing the strength to accept this moment of my sporting career that sees me here today to give up being able to add to my Palmares a victory in a Grand Tour or Flanders, a lifelong dream.”
Colbrelli was rushed to the Hospital Universitari de Girona following his collapse and tests revealed he had suffered from an unstable cardiac arrhythmia which required defibrillation.
He was then fitted with a subcutaneous defibrillator (ICD) that serves to correct the rhythm of the heart in emergency situations.
“After what happened at Catalunya, the hope of being able to continue being a professional rider has never abandoned me, albeit minimal,” he added.
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“I 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, directed by Dr Zaccaria, I did not give up anyway. I resumed cycling under strict medical supervision and underwent several visits and consultations with specialists in the sector. Among these, the director of the University Clinic of Padua, Prof. Corrado, who followed the implantation of the defibrillator.
The 32-year-old revealed that he will remain the Bahrain Victorious in a new role which has yet to be disclosed.
“I say goodbye to cycling and try to do it with a smile for the good it gave me, even if it hurts 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 gives back in a different form. I’m ready to keep trying to be a champion, like on the bike. I will stay in cycling with the Bahrain Victorious, who have been close to me like a second family and will accompany me in this transition period from a rider to a new role that will evolve daily.
"I will be an ambassador for our partners, work closely with the performance group, and share my experience with my team-mates.”
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Bahrain Victorious managing director Milan Erzen also paid tribute to Colbrelli and highlighted the importance of continuing to utilise the former’s rider’s experience in the team.
“Sonny has been part of this team from the very beginning," he said. "He is a champion, and I’m pleased that we could give him the support to achieve incredible results.
"The most important thing is that Sonny is healthy. We are pleased that Sonny will continue with us and share his experience across our team and our development teams.”
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