Riding is Life


Van Hooydonck fitted with defibrillator, spelling end of pro career

After a week in hospital, the 27-year-old leaves for home.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 20.09.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Following his worrying car accident last week, Jumbo-Visma’s Nathan Van Hooydonck has been diagnosed with a heart muscle anomaly and fitted with an internal defibrillator, which means the end of his professional racing career.

The 27-year-old Belgian left Antwerp’s University Hospital after spending more than a week under medical supervision after he fell ill while driving and crashed into several cars before being revived and briefly put into an induced coma.

In an update released by Jumbo-Visma, the team says the incident “nearly claimed his life last Tuesday,” and after testing it was found a heart muscle anomaly was the cause of the accident and the fitted internal defibrillator is to correct potential future cardiac arrhythmia.

“I realise that I was incredibly lucky,” Van Hooydonck said in the press release. “Things may have gone differently if I hadn’t gotten good help so quickly. I’m fine now, but I still have to deal with the fact that this marks the end of my professional career.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the people who helped me, the medical team at the hospital and all the fans who sent me messages. I will now focus on my recovery and my upcoming fatherhood. Everything is going well with Alicia and the pregnancy, and we eagerly anticipate the birth. That really helps me now.”

Dylan van Baarle pays tribute at the Vuelta a España to teammate Nathan van Hooydonck. Van Baarle is wearing a commemorative t-shirt titled "Colouring History" and has a handmade sign on the front reading "voor Nathan."
Jumbo-Visma pay tribute to their teammate on the final stage of their victorious Vuelta a España.

Speaking before the European time trial championships, Van Hooydonck’s teammate Wout van Aert expressed the shock and worry he felt at the time of the incident.

“I was completely upset when I received the news of Nathan’s accident,” Van Aert said at the press conference. “I felt like I had been holding my breath for a whole day until the news came he was awake. That was a big relief, but there are still a lot of questions for him and for us.”

“It’s a huge blow for him that he is forced to quit his passion. I lose my best teammate. It’s really difficult for me. He already had so much bad luck, it’s so unfair.”

Van Hooydonck calls time on a seven-year pro career, starting off at BMC in 2017, moving onto CCC two years later before signing for Jumbo-Visma in 2021. He rode two Tours de France (2022 and 2023) and two Vuelta a Españas (2019 and 2021) as part of the winning squad all four times. The closest he came to his own individual professional victory was his second place at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne earlier this year, when he finished behind teammate Tiesj Benoot.

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