Katusha offers administrative role to Kim Kirchen following cardiac arrest
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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Katusha offers administrative role to Kim Kirchen following cardiac arrest

by Steve Jones at 9:10 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Injury
Health problem still undiagnosed, will still have a place within team

Andrei TchmilTeam Katusha boss Andrei Tchmil recently visited with Kim Kirchen at his home in Luxembourg. During the meeting the two spoke of Kirchen's future with the team.  The former Luxembourg time trial champion had a cardiac arrest in June while he was racing at the Tour de Suisse, which has put his future as a rider in doubt.

Kirchen had moved over to the Russian team from HTC-Columbia this season, but the verdict is still out on whether his current health condition will allow him to continue racing.

“I found Kim very well and I am very happy about it," Tchmil said.  "We’ll stay close to him like we did with the other Katusha riders that were unable to compete over the last two years because of several accidents, some more serious than others.  Now he’s the father of two beautiful twins, and he has to think of them. That must be his first priority."

Tchmil realizes that if Kirchen makes the decision to try a comeback, it could pose major health risks for the 32 year old.  For that reason, the new father of twins may decide that it's best to hang up his bike for good.

"And for that I have proposed a new role for Kim in our Team," explained Tchmil, "different from rider. Something that will be in line with his wishes. I think we can find something together.”

Earlier this week Kirchen held a press conference and said he was hopeful for a return to the sport.  “I hope that next year I’ll be sitting on my bike,” he said, according to Tageblatt. “Currently the results of the analysis haven’t come out so we still don’t know why it happened. This could take weeks, or even months, it’s unclear what the cause was, so I must wait.”

Kirchen' biggest result was his victory in the 2008 Flèche Wallonne.  He also won a stage and finished second overall in the 2007 Tour de Suisse, and took home another stage win in the event last year.  He's been twice the champion of Luxembourg on both the road and in the time trial.  Kirchen finished 7th overall in the Tour de France in both 2007 and 2008, and wore the maillot juane for four days during the 2008 edition.

Recap of events following cardiac arrest

Kirchen suffered from heart problems just before midnight in Switzerland on Friday evening June 18th.  He was in his room with teammate Joaquim Rodriguez when he complained that he wasn't feeling well and collapsed.  Rodriguez immediately got help from the team doctor Andrei Mikhailov and Marc Joseph, a family friend and retired firefighter, and they began to perform CPR.

The details of the exact heart condition were sketchy at first, but now it appears that he suffered from a cardiac arrest rather than a heart attack.  He was rushed to the University Hospital of Zurich and arrived there just after midnight.

Doctors put Kirchen in a medically induced coma and lowered his body temperature to stabilize his medical condition, and improve his chances of recovery from the trauma.

On Tuesday June 22nd he emerged from his coma and immediately recognized his family, but didn't remember what had happened to him.

On Friday June 25th Kirchen was released from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the University Hospital of Zurich and transferred home to a hospital in Luxembourg.

He was released from the hospital during the week of July 5th.

Medical problems in the early season

Just before the E3 Prijs Kirchen had trouble with an infected saddle sore.  He went on a heavy dose of antibiotics, and ended up in the hospital after having a bad reaction to the medication.  Doctors couldn't find any problems with Kirchen and sent him home.

He was preparing to get back to racing in the Brabantse Pijl, but two days before the race he was found unconscious while out training and taken to the hospital by ambulance.  Again, doctors were unable to diagnose the problem.

During Flèche Wallonne he began experiencing problems on the first climb up the Mur de Huy.   People close to Kirchen told the De Standaard that "his vision went black, and he suddenly didn't know where he was".

Cycling in Luxembourg - the great divide

For years there has been competitive division in Luxembourg when it comes to cycling.  You either root for the Kirchens or you root for the Schlecks.  The intense rivalry began decades ago with former professionals Johnny Schleck, the father of Saxo Bank's Andy and Fränk, and Jeng Kirchen, the brother of Kirchen's grandfather.

The dedication of Fränk Schleck's Tour de Suisse win to Kirchen underscored that their rivalry is one that is left on the road, and the Luxembourger would in fact have both sides of the sport urging a speedy recovery on.  A recent father, the situation is likely very personal for the older Schleck brother.  Kirchen soon returned the gesture by visiting Fränk in the hospital when he was having surgery on his collarbone.  Schleck crashed during stage three of the Tour de France and had to abandon the race.


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