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Double cyclo-cross world champion Niels Albert has defibrilator implanted to tackle heart problems

Belgian was forced to retire in 2014 at age of 28 due to abnormal heart rhythms

Two-time world cyclo-cross champion Niels Albert has had an operation to fit an internal defibrillator to respond to the abnormal heart rhythms that forced him to retire from racing in 2014 at the age of 28.

Now aged 31, the Belgian was admitted to hospital in Bruges at the weekend due to continuing issues with cardiac arrhythmias, with the decision taken to implant the internal defibrillator, reports Sporza.

According to the British Heart Foundation, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) “can give your heart electric pulses or shocks to get your heart rhythm back to normal.

“The ICD is inserted just under your collar bone. It looks similar to a pacemaker and is a little bigger than a matchbox.

“It is made up of a pulse generator – a battery powered electronic circuit – [and] one or more electrode leads which are placed into your heart through a vein.

Albert, winner of the world cyclo-cross championships in 2009 and 2012 and a double world cup champion, is now manager of the Crelan-Charles team whose roster includes current world champion Wout van Aert.

Speaking about his operation at a press conference at the team’s launch for 2017/18, Albert said: “I am very shocked, but I wanted security so went ahead with it.”

He said that his health issues meant he would be unable to accompany the team to the opening two rounds of the World Cup in Iowa City and Waterloo, Wisconsin.

He added: "The defibrillator now provides a lot of reassurance for me and the people around me.

“Now my girlfriend can fall asleep safely next to me."

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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