Cycle ace Ryan quits racing due to heart condition

CYCLING ace Ryan Connor this week announced his retirement from the sport.

The Ahoghill man – a three-time winner of the P&O Tour of the North – has been plagued by a mystery heart condition for the past five years which has severely curtailed his ability to compete at the top level.

“It’s not something I think about all the time and I still do everyday things like playing football but as far as competing at a high level of cycling, it has totally held me back.

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“I’ve been up and down to Dublin a number of times to see the Irish Cycling Federation’s doctor and I was fitted with a device under my skin around the heart for a couple of years but all it told them was that my heart was going fast – it didn’t tell them why.

“It’s sad to be quitting racing but it hasn’t been a difficult decision. It’s frustrating to do all the training and not be competitive in races – it’s a challenge to even finish them now, never mind win them.

Connor started racing at the age of 15 and within three years had won the gruelling Tour of the North in 2004. His subsequent successes in 2006 and 2008 mean he is still one of only two men to have won the prestigious title on three occasions.

Despite the disappointment of having to quit the sport at a time when he might well have been approaching his peak, Connor insists he has plenty of happy memories.

“There were so many good times – winning the Tour of the North three times and racing at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 were the obvious highlights, but there was also a British time trial championship in 2004 and I won a mountain jersey during the Tour of Serbia which was pleasing. As well as that, I got to travel to just about every continent.

“If I had one regret, it would be that I didn’t get the chance to compete in the Commonwealth Games in 2010 because I think with the benefit of four more years’ experience behind me, I would have had a genuine chance of winning a medal.”

Ryan will, however, remain involved in the sport in his role as Cycling Ulster team manager, while he has also fulfilled a similar role for the Irish team at an event in France and Holland over Easter.