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Tests remain inconclusive for Sonny Colbrelli: ‘It’s a miracle I am alive’

Latest battery of tests remain 'inconclusive' about what provoked the health emergency for the Italian rider who remains in a Spanish hospital.

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Sonny Colbrelli seems to be accepting the crushing reality of his near-death experience Monday after his finish-line collapse at the Volta a Catalunya.

The 31-year-old Italian at Bahrain-Victorious remains in a Spanish hospital Friday as he continues to undergo a battery of tests to determine what might have caused his cardiac arrest just moments after crossing the finish line at the Spanish WorldTour race.

After such a dramatic health emergency, Colbrelli admits that his racing future remains uncertain.

“It’s already a miracle that I’m alive,” Colbrelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Now it would take another one to get me back on the saddle.”

The Paris-Roubaix winner initially was making public comments about a possible return to racing, with La Gazzetta quoting him as saying, “I can only think about when I can return to the bike.”

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Now that tone has changed as doctors and team officials continue to conduct tests to try to figure out not only what happened to him but if he will be fit to return to the intensity of WorldTour-level racing.

“The examinations carried out [Thursday] were not conclusive,” Bahrain-Victorious officials said. “We confirm that the athlete is feeling well, assisted by his relatives on the ground and receiving excellent care from the Hospital Universitari de Girona. Bahrain Victorious medical crew is in regular contact with the hospital’s medical staff.”

Doctors have been tracking Colbrelli’s heart patterns as well as put him under a series of additional tests and scans. So far, doctors have said test results are inconclusive. La Gazzetta also reported that Colbrelli’s family and agent have arrived at the Catalan hospital in Girona, Spain, where he is currently being treated.

“We will evaluate things day by day,” Colbrelli told La Gazzetta. “There are many people who love me.”

Bahrain-Victorious officials confirmed earlier this week that tests revealed that the Paris-Roubaix champion suffered cardiac arrhythmia moments after crossing the line, causing him to collapse, fall into convulsions, and suffer cardiopulmonary arrest.

Only a quick-acting paramedic named Borja Sáenz de Cos at the scene saved his life. The team and Colbrelli have publicly thanked him.

The Spanish daily AS quoted an unnamed Bahrain-Victorious team source saying that everyone on the team remains in shock and that staffers are only concentrating on Colbrelli’s health right now.

“He can stay in the hospital as long as necessary,” the team source told the Spanish daily. “Without knowing all the test results, no one can say anything about what will happen.”

Colbrelli’s horrific brush with death is raising all kinds of questions behind the scenes not only at Bahrain-Victorious but across the peloton.

Speaking to Het Nieuwsblad, Belgian rider Oliver Naesen expressed alarm about what happened at the finish line to Colbrelli.

“It’s terrifying,” Naesen told the Belgian daily. “I knew that Sonny Colbrelli had the flu on the first day of Paris-Nice and that he had raced with a fever. The first rule I learned is not to race with a fever because that’s the worst for the heart. I recently ran into Johan Museeuw in training and he listed me a number of runners whose career ended because of a race or training carried out with a fever.

“There are a lot of accidents in cycling, but there are also a lot of heart problems, too,” Naesen said. “This shows once again that the team doctors have an important function. They are the ones who must protect the health of the riders. If you leave an athlete decide for himself, he will always continue to race.”

Other teams say they are being more careful about allowing riders to return to competition too soon after health issues.

Some have questioned if Colbrelli’s collapse could be related to COVID-19 and a wave of unusually rates of illness and abandons at recent WorldTour races.

Patrick Lefevere, team manager at Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl, said his team is among several who are insisting on increased health checks as the coronavirus pandemic and the spike of illnesses continue to rage on unabated.

Lefevere isn’t discounting a possible link between what happened to Colbrelli and coronavirus.

“Of course, we do not know whether this cardiac arrest is the result of a corona infection, but it is of course possible,” Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad. “Corona is a dirty animal, and we don’t know what the longterm consequences may be. That is why we are very careful.”

Bahrain-Victorious officials said Friday that information about Colbrelli’s condition will be updated in the coming days.