The Leopard-Trek team announcement

I can’t write about cycling and not mention this.

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.


Filed under Cycling

5 responses to “WOUTER WEYLANDT – oh dear!

  1. I just saw that on BBC World. That race come through Forte dei Marmi along the coast tomorrow.

    • I’m following the route too. Indeed it will be very hard on all the riders. It is the first death in the Giro for 25 years, but other sports (even heavy contact sports like rugby and Australian Rules football) hardly ever have a serious casualty.

  2. Tim

    Tragic though today’s events were, there is only so much you can do to make any sport safer without neutering it completely.

    The biggest tragedy of all is that (a) Weylandt was only at the Giro because Bennati was injured at the Tour of Romandie and (b) his girlfriend Sophie is five months pregnant.

    Tomorrow is the anniversary of his Giro stage win. Hopefully Leopard Trek will honour his memory and ride on, and an arrangement will be made to allow a Leopard rider to slip away and claim the stage win as a tribute. It would be a small and ultimately futile gesture, but it would be a nice touch nonetheless.

    • Yes, Tim, I agree that pro cycling is always going to have considerable risks.
      It’s just so sad, and it puts the life/sport thing in perspective for me.

      Winning any game is not worth a young man’s life, but without extreme endeavours which push the envelope, competition and physical activity, with their attendant risks, life would be much less worth living.

  3. Jan

    Whenever something like that happens, I always feel so sad for the family when the media fixate on replays of the final moments. That would be so dreadfully painful.

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