Kim Kirchen will decide his future in December, unlikely to stay with Katusha
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Kim Kirchen will decide his future in December, unlikely to stay with Katusha

by VeloNation Press at 11:02 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Injury
Doctors say heath problems could be genetic

Kim KirchenContrary to the reports in Het Nieuwsblad over the weekend, Kim Kirchen has said that he has not yet made a decision on his future in the sport following a cardiac arrest this past June.  The Belgian paper claimed the Luxembourger had already decided to return to the peloton for 2011 and, while that has not been completely ruled out, Kirchen acknowledges there is still much to consider before making such a big decision.

"Nothing has changed with my situation," he told  "As far as I'm concerned, I will only make a decision in December and I'm not sure what it will be.  I feel good up until now and have started light training, but this does not mean that I will return again as a professional at all costs."

"There are further tests and studies available, and I will make a decision when I have the diagnosis.  There are many factors that play a role [in my decision].  My physical condition, the advice of the doctors, the team and my family. I will certainly not rush."

While Kirchen has been offered an administrative job with the Katusha team, its manager Andrei Tchmil told Het Nieuwsblad that his return as a rider was definitley not an option.

"To let somebody race again who was almost dead [in June] is irresponsible," Tchmil told the Belgian paper. "It is a time bomb which can go off anytime. Kirchen can have a function within the team, but racing: No."

Kirchen told Wort that he doubts an administrative position with Katusha is in the cards, but also said it is too early to speculate on that decision.  "I will have to see how it [the position] looks financially, and how often I will actually be traveling abroad and will be away from my family," he said.  He confirmed his contract with the Russian team is through the 2011 season, but it states that after six months of inactivity it could be dissolved to leave him free in December.

His team of cardiologists admits they are skeptical about his return to the peloton, and expect the final results of his examination - including further studies planned in Munich - to be completed in two months time.  They explained to Wort that finding a similar incident to Kirchen's is difficult since his condition is extremely rare, and said it's possible that his heath problem has a genetic origin.

Even if Kirchen gets the thumbs up from doctors to compete as a cyclist, his medical file must then be examined by the International Cycling Union (UCI).  Even if he is deemed healthy by the sport's governing body, he must still be given clearance to race with a defibrillator.

Regardless of the outcome, the recent father of twins remains positive about his future.

"If I have to end my career it would not be catastrophic," he admitted.  "Life also offers other wonderful challenges. I will certainly get other job offers."

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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