Nathan Van Hooydonck has said he remains uncertain as to what lies behind the heart condition that led to his losing consciousness while driving a car earlier this autumn.
The 28-year-old was at the wheel of his car, driving his pregnant wife to the gynaecologist in northern Belgium when the accident happened. Various vehicles were involved and while nobody was seriously injured, the Jumbo-Visma rider was rushed to hospital amidst initial fears for his life.
Those fears thankfully rapidly dissipated, but the Belgian was placed in an induced coma for several hours and he later learned his career as a cyclist was over.
Van Hooydonck remains very thankful that he was lucky enough that both a police station was in the vicinity of the accident, as well as various off-duty health workers, meaning help was quickly at hand for all. But the Tour de France racer still remains uncertain why he has an enlarged heart ventricle, as doctors discovered after the accident, and which caused the Belgian team worker’s heart to fail, albeit briefly, at such a critical moment.
Speaking to Dutch news outlet NOS, Van Hooydonck explained that as a result of the enlarged ventricle, “A cardiac arrhythmia has developed. When I had a checkup by the team in December there was nothing wrong. They cannot explain how it could develop in eight months.”
Van Hooydonck asked rhetorically if “Maybe I trained too hard? I have always asked a lot of myself. But I don’t think that is the reason.”
Looking at other potential causes, Van Hooydonck reflected that after COVID-19, already intense race finales began earlier than previously, also that “We sometimes race in very difficult [weather] conditions. Forty degrees [Celsius] and we just keep riding on. That’s not healthy.”
These may be potential factors, but a real explanation has yet to emerge, and “It is worth investigating thoroughly,” Van Hooydonck said. “I would like to know, especially for my teammates and other people who participate in top sports.”
Concerning heart failure, “They [the doctors] know it can happen if you do this or that,” he added. But as for what caused it – “It is currently a mystery.”
The Belgian has been fitted with an internal defibrillator (ICD) to correct potential future cardiac arrhythmia and while no longer able to race, he has accepted that for safety reasons, there is no other option.
“If something happens to me in a peloton at a hectic moment and I fall, it is immediately a dangerous situation for…