British talent Anna Shackley forced to retire at 22 with heart arrhythmia

Scot had ridden for SD Worx-Protime for three seasons, but had not competed since her diagnosis in January

Clock12:09, Tuesday 16th April 2024
Anna Shackley had ridden for SD Worx-Protime since turning professional in 2021

© Getty Images

Anna Shackley had ridden for SD Worx-Protime since turning professional in 2021

At the age of 22, Anna Shackley has been forced to retire from professional cycling, with the SD Worx-Protime rider diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia that is deemed incompatible with elite-level sport.

The news was announced by her team on Tuesday morning, bringing an end to Shackley's four-year professional career that yielded some high placings on general classification at the UAE Tour and prestigious under-23 event, the Tour de l'Avenir.

Having turned professional with the Dutch WorldTeam in 2021, Shackley had steadily become a reliable worker for her superstar teammates and in recent seasons, made a name for herself as a future contender for stage race titles. However, she had been unable to race in 2024 as a result of her diagnosis at the beginning of the year.

"She was diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia in January," wrote SD Worx-Protime in a statement released on social media. "Following this, she underwent a heart screening in Maxima Medisch Centrum in Veldhoven in collaboration with the SD Worx-Protime's medical team.

"Here, several irregularities were found. That was the reason to immediately take her off the bike and do more extensive tests and procedures at the hospital in Barcelona near her hometown. All this time, Shackley (22) did not train or compete in races."

In light of the tests and procedures that Shackley has undergone in Barcelona, it has been decided that the 22-year-old Brit can no longer compete in elite-level sport and will immediately retire.

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Shackley's case is the latest in a growing list of riders to be diagnosed with irregular heart conditions in recent seasons, with Sonny Colbrelli, Wesley Kreder and Nathan Van Hooydonck all forced into similar premature retirements.

Read more: Nathan van Hooydonck forced to retire due to heart problems

Peter Sagan, meanwhile, has recently undergone two bouts of heart surgery to correct his case of cardiac arrhythmia. Unlike those mentioned, the Slovakian has thus far been able to return to training and competition as he pursues Olympic success on the mountain bike this summer.

Read more: The latest updates on Peter Sagan's heart condition

A short but successful career for Shackley

For Shackley, the news will no doubt come as a great disappointment and her team have called for privacy to be granted to the Scottish retiree over the coming months.

"We are very sorry to see Anna's cycling career end like this," said SD Worx-Protime sports manager Danny Stam. "She was one of the bigger talents in the women's peloton. We saw in recent years that she was making good progress and we believed she could grow to the world top. It is especially unfortunate for her that she is now forced to stop.

"On the other hand, we are also happy that we were able to prevent any more dangerous complications. We hope Anna can return to her 'normal' life and we will work with the team to see how we can help."

Prior to her retirement, Shackley had achieved a lot at a young age in her fledgling cycling career. Growing up in a suburb of Glasgow, the 22-year-old rode for Glasgow Riderz, Team 22 and Team Breeze as an amateur on the road, before making a name for herself as a notable track cyclist.

Competing in the endurance events, Shackley became a national champion in 2020 in both the points race and the team pursuit, before later representing Great Britain and Scotland, respectively, at the 2020 Olympic Games and the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Having penned professional terms with SD Worx-Protime in 2021, the Scot enjoyed some fine performances in her debut season as part of the Women's WorldTour, placing 13th at the Ladies Tour of Norway and coming runner-up in the youth classification to teammate Niamh Fisher-Black.

Over the following seasons, Shackley continued to progress as a GC rider and in what would prove to be her final season, claimed fourth at the UAE Tour before finishing runner-up to Shirin van Anrooij at the Tour de l'Avenir Femmes.

Her final WorldTour race saw Shackley finish seventh at the Tour de Romandie, before taking a silver medal in the under-23 category at the 2023 European Championships Road Race.

For the latest news, interviews and analysis from the world of professional cycling, be sure to check out the Racing tab on the GCN website and visit our essential guide to the Spring Classics to stay up to date with all of the action from cycling's most exciting season.

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