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Belgian cyclocross rider Niels Albert announced his retirement from the sport on Monday because of a heart condition.
The 28-year-old revealed the news in an emotional meeting with the media in Leuven, located in the Flanders region of Belgium.
Albert, a two-time world cyclocross champion (2009, 2012), said he suffers from a heart arrhythmia, a condition he said could cause a heart attack during a race when his heart rate is elevated.
Albert, who read from a letter during the press conference, said retiring was the only option because of the health condition.
“The bike has always been the biggest passion of my life, but after six years, I have to abruptly give up my professional life,” he said, according to a Sporza report.
“In these difficult circumstances, I would like to thank all those on my side: my family, friends, wife Chantal, the whole team and entourage, sponsors, supporters, all the organizers.
“The future is totally uncertain. My life was devoted to cycling. … Whether it’s business or in cycling, is still not [decided] today. All options are open.”
Albert, who turned professional in 2005, won the overall World Cup crowns during the 2010-11 and 2012-13 seasons.