I’m a new follower of the Giro d’Italia. It only really hooked me in when it started in Amsterdam last year. Now I’m almost a Giro tragic.
Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt won the stage from Amsterdam to Middelburg. Today, almost exactly a year later, he died after a fall on a descent in the Giro 2011 Stage 3. I flicked on the TV this afternoon to see how the race was going, then mercifully I turned it off, thus missing the fateful crash.
When I turned it back on to see the end of the race, it was clear something was wrong. To find out just what had happened I had to refer to Twitter. I’ll try to avoid the replays of the crash, though here in cycling-crazy Holland it will be all over the news broadcasts.
I personally ride with inordinate concern for my own safety, and have never raced a bike in my life. I can’t imagine hurtling down those hills, boxed in by a hundred other riders, with no margin for error, though I love watching the experts do it.
I get a thrill out of seeing some blood on the cobblestones of the rough sections of the Paris-Roubaix, and admiring the guys who wipe their abrasions, climb on the reserve bike and carry on. It’s a super-tough race, but we don’t expect anybody to get seriously hurt.
After this tragedy there will be talk about the safety of the sport in general, and about the danger of the particular descent which claimed the life of a 26-year-old, with a family and friends who will be devastated.
Others are far better qualified than I to assess the risks and whether mistakes were made in planning the route. The shocked and subdued Dutch commentators on Eurosport could only add that it’s a reminder that this is a dangerous sport.
I’ll continue to follow the Giro, I suppose, and other cycling races too. But a lot of the joy went out of it today.