Gianni Meersman who was set to move from the Etixx-Quick Step team to Fortuneo-Vital Concept for 2017, has decided to end his career with immediate effect.
During a routine medical check-up, a cardiac arrhythmia and scar tissue were found in the 31-year-old Belgian rider. Additional tests have confirmed that they pose a serious danger to his health if he continues to exercise his sport at high level. This forced the double stage winner at the 2016 Vuelta to make a difficult and dramatic decision to stop his career immediately.
"When this abnormal cardiac evaluation was discovered a few weeks ago, it was obviously like a real shock,” Meersman says. “In the meantime, I had additional tests and scans, but they confirmed that this health risk will remain if I continue to do high-level cycling so the specialists advised me to end my active career. Because of my wife and daughter who have put everything aside during my career, I cannot and will not take such a risk. The bike was not only my profession but also my passion, and it is with much pain that I made that decision.”
Fortuneo manager Emmanuel Hubert is shocked to have lost one of his leaders.
"It is of course a blow to the team but it is primarily a huge blow to him,” he said. “Gianni is an engaging guy and a great rider who quickly joined the team. He will not have the opportunity to wear our jersey and I think he is the first to be sorry. I had him on the phone yesterday for a long time and he was very affected. Being a high-level sportsman is a special job and you have to know how to listen to your body. Cycling was putting his life in danger and it is obvious that he cannot take any risk. I've known Gianni for six months. He's a fighter, he'll bounce back and I'll of course think about what we can do to help him. He had been unanimous in our training, and I wish him the best in the future.”
Meersman achieved his biggest successes a few months ago when he won the second and fifth stage at the Vuelta. He has also won stages in Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and the Volta a Catalunya.
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