In Memoriam: Wouter Weylandt, 1984-2011

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News.

Cycling is a dangerous sport. No one denies that. Crashes are part of the business, never welcomed but always expected. When one of those crashes results in a cyclist’s death, however, it rocks the cycling community to its core. I was not following cycling when Fabio Casartelli crashed and died during the 1995 Tour de France, nor when Andre Kivilev met a similar fate during the 2003 edition of Paris-Nice. But I was right there when Wouter Weylandt crashed on a technical descent during today’s stage of the Giro d’Italia.

The sick feeling I got in my stomach when I realized this was more than just a simple crash has yet to go away. The emotions that bubbled up to the surface when I learned he had died could not, and can not, be stopped. I cannot claim to have had a personal attachment to Wouter. But I can claim to have a personal attachment to cycling, and to many of the cyclists Wouter called friends and teammates. We see these guys crash on television all the time. But they almost always get up and walk away. Or get up and go to a hospital, back on the bike in weeks, months. When we see one of our beloved cyclists go down, but not get up again, in front of our very eyes, it is shattering. It wrenches emotions from me that I did not think possible to have for a person I did not know.

But this post is not about me. It’s about Wouter and the larger cycling community. I cannot speak to Wouter as a person. There are others who can tell you of Wouter’s personality, what he brought to the peloton, his accomplishments. But I can speak to the fact that I don’t know of a single pro cyclist who doesn’t love cycling with all his (her) heart, soul, body. Thus I can say with complete certainty that Wouter loved cycling with all his heart, soul, and body. If nothing else, this little fact makes the reality that he will never be on a bike again heartbreaking for those who cycle.

The other thing I can say is that the cycling community feels his loss to the core. While the rest of the world goes on around us without a hitch in its step, the fans and lovers (sometimes haters!) within the cycling community can grieve and reminisce together, all while helping each other remember that despite the dangers, despite the risks, we will always get back on the bike.


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