‘I kind of went off the grid’ – Paddy Bevin is back after a nasty heart scare

For the first time, the Kiwi has spoken publicly about his cardiac arrhythmia.

Matt de Neef
by Matt de Neef 13.01.2024 Photography by
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Take a look at Paddy Bevin’s 2023 on your results website of choice and you’ll notice a very disrupted season. You’ll see that he didn’t race at all from late March until late July. There’s a good reason for that.

“I had a cardiac arrhythmia that we chased around and took a while to get treated,” Bevin tells Escape Collective at the Tour Down Under in Adelaide. “We don’t really know when it kicked off – I had COVID in December [2022] and I crashed and all this stuff – but by the time I got back to Europe [in early 2023], I started to notice a few odd things.

“It kind of started out as a few [extra beats] and saw a few on the bike and then a few at night and then by the end I was getting them pretty consistently daily.”

The 32-year-old Kiwi now knows that he had a condition called Persistent Premature Ventricular Contraction – in his words: “basically just an extra half beat on the end of your normal heart rhythm.” Getting to that diagnosis and treatment was a long road though. He first noticed the irregular heartbeat in January or February 2023 and it wasn’t until June that he received treatment.

“It was hard to nail down [what was going on] before they did eventually give me the green light to treat it,” he says. “There was a few different medical systems in different countries [Spain, Andorra, and Netherlands – ed.] doing different things. Eventually I had an ablation done in Barcelona in June.”

In an ablation, a catheter is inserted into the groin and passed through veins until it reaches the heart. There, pulses of energy are directed at regions responsible for irregular activity, scarring the heart tissue. The entire procedure is conducted while the patient is awake.

“It was a pretty horrid experience,” Bevin says. “I was completely lucid, completely sober, just nothing. So I’m lying on the table in Barcelona watching it all happen on the screen. No nothing. They said it was the best way to get the whole area.”

Bevin in the days before the start of the men’s Santos Tour Down Under.

Bevin’s had heart concerns previously. He was due to start the 2020 Tour Down Under but when he noticed an irregular heartbeat in the lead-up he was forced to sit out the race. In the end, doctors were never able to explain the issue, and he was able to return to racing a month later.

That heart issue was widely covered by the cycling press at the time. Bevin had ridden a terrific 2019 edition of the Tour Down Under, winning a stage and leading the race until a horrible late crash. He was one of the riders to watch coming into the 2020 edition. When he withdrew from the race, it was widely noted.

This most recent heart issue though? You almost certainly haven’t heard about that. And with good reason.

“I’ve avoided talking about it for a year,” Bevin says. “So this is the first time I’ve really said much about it. At the time, it kind of played out over such a long period after a false start with the season here [at the 2023 TDU, where he sprained his ankle in the curtain-raiser criterium – ed.], after changing teams and having a whole new environment and all those changes, and then having that [heart issue] come then – it just basically torpedoed my year. I just put on a brave face and just suffered through the end of the season. 

“I kinda just went off the grid. I don’t read social media anyway so it was kind of easy; [I] kinda just slipped through the cracks. Some guys were like ‘Weird! We haven’t seen you for six months. We didn’t know what you’re up to!’ ‘Yeah, well. That’s what I was up to.’”

Bevin didn’t want to speak publicly about the condition until he knew that everything was under control. That moment came in November when he sat down with a cardiologist in New Zealand who assured him that he was in the clear. Bevin had a feeling that was the case – the irregular heartbeat had stopped immediately after his ablation – but getting confirmation in November was a relief. Best of all, doctors assure Bevin that there aren’t likely to be any long-term effects.

“I’ve had a couple of full check-ups now and a couple of days in the Holter monitor, and it’s all been good. So, out the other side.

“I did come back and race the second half of the year but by the time you’ve kind of taken that much time out it was basically just a throw-it-together job to get through the end of the year and then rebuild this year.”

Bevin working for his team at the 2023 Tour of Guangxi, his final race of the year.

Bevin comes to the 2024 Tour Down Under as a late replacement for Australian Matt Dinham who’s out with a stress fracture of his heel. Bevin only found out he was doing the race in late December and arrives having had a bit of a disrupted but eventful off-season.

He came home to New Zealand in November, flew back to Europe for a DSM-Firmenich PostNL team camp in December, flew back to New Zealand later that month, got married, had Christmas and New Year at home, and then jetted off to Adelaide.

He will start the race this week with zero pressure from the team and from himself. The Dutch squad will ride for 21-year-old Briton Oscar Onley in the GC and Latvian Emils Liepins in the sprints. For Bevin, riding TDU is more about building into the season ahead; a season where he’s hoping for the sort of form that eluded him last year.

“The one thing I’ve always been lucky or worked hard to have is there’s always been periods in the season where I’ve gone really well,” Bevin says. “Last year was the first year where I had a really dry year. So every year before, you’d pick yourself up off the ground and [go] well, and there were periods where I’d had results and last year was kind of the first time that I just came away with nothing and had to really start over.

“So look, I would take a period of really good form and racing for some results.”

It won’t really be up to him where he gets the opportunity to race for those results. He’s not in a position at DSM-Firmenich PostNL where he can call the shots and dictate his race calendar. The 2023 season was his first with the team and given everything that happened  – crashing at Tour Down Under and leaving the race early, then a long lay-off with his heart issue – in his words, he didn’t make the best first impression.

“I’m kind of starting from zero with the team as well, and my race program reflects that,” he says. “I’m a reserve here – I wasn’t on the list for Tour Down Under. And then even my program going forward is fairly peppered with a lot of reserve spots, and ‘We’ll see how it goes’. You’ve got to rebuild the trust, almost, within the team.

“Fortunately I feel like one: there’s always enough bike races, and two: I can kind of mould myself in a few different directions that will just make something work.”

Bevin’s always been a versatile rider. He’s strong against the clock, he’s got a powerful kick, and he’s a better climber than a lot of guys with his explosive power. In his ideal world, he’d love to get back to the sort of rider he was when he won a stage and the overall at the Tour of Turkey and a stage of the Tour de Romandie, both in 2022.

“I had a few results in the last few years where I’ve been good out of those kind of reduced finishes when you’ve climbed and then kind of cleaned up the guys that are there,” he says. “That’s always been the most enjoyable direction for me; I’ve always enjoyed that kind of style of training to build that engine and then using it in races.”

After Tour Down Under, Bevin will head to Cadel’s Race and then it’s back to his adopted home of Andorra. And from there? Well that’s up to his team.

“I may or may not race February, possibly the end of February,” he says. “Drôme [February 25] and Ardeche [February 24] I think are the next races in my program. And then it’s a pretty mixed bag after that. So just playing it by ear, just seeing how the racing goes and then travel back to Europe and then kind of develop more of a plan from there.”

Despite all the ups and downs of the last year or so, Bevin is stilll motivated to do the best he can, now that he’s on top of his health again.

“It was nice to turn around in November and be like, ‘OK, the goal is to build back up again. And if nothing else, just have a really good crack,’” he says. “You don’t know what’s ahead racing-wise, so for me it’s a very simple process of just getting into really good form again, and then finding an outlet for that. That’s the enjoyable part for me.”

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