Belgian rider Gianni Meersman has been forced to retire from cycling due to a cardiac arrhythmia, his team has announced.
A statement from his new team Fortuneo-Vital Concept stated that: “A routine check discovered arrhythmias and scar tissue in the heart. Additional tests then confirmed that they would pose a serious danger to his health if he continued to exercise his sport at high level, which forced him to make a difficult and dramatic decision to stop his career immediately.”
Meersman started his career with Discovery Channel in 2007, before going on to sign for Française des Jeux, Lotto–Belisol and Omega Pharma–Quick-Step who he has raced with since 2013.
Amongst the wins that the rider from West Flanders took during his career included stages of the Tour of Austria, Tour de Georgia, Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya.
This year, he won stages of the Vuelta a Espana which were his first Grand Tour stage wins. During the Vuelta, it was announced that he had signed a one-year contract with French Pro Continental team Fortuneo-Vital Concept.
Gianni Meersman: “When this abnormal cardiac assessment was discovered a few weeks ago, it was obviously a real thunderbolt. In the meantime, I had additional tests and scans, but they confirmed that this health risk would remain if I continued to ride high-level cycling, so the specialists advised me to end my active career. Compared to my wife and daughter, who put everything aside during my career, I can not and will not take such a risk. Cycling was not only my profession but also my passion, and so it was with great pain that I made this decision.”