On Monday during the 3rd stage of the Giro d'Italia there was an accident involving a 26 year old pro cyclist named Wouter Weylandt. From what I have read the reports say that on a descent of a climb he turned around to guage the distance to the riders behind him and an unfortunate turn of events occurred which finally led to his death. This is a very rare occurence in professional cycling but less rare in bicycle racing altogether. When a death related to bike racing occurs it isn't very likely the riders fault. Most stories i have heard are related to drivers hitting riders or going onto a course or road in which they were not permitted to be on. The problem is that it is not 100% preventable though. Accidents do happen and people (riders & non-riders alike) make mistakes. I read an column this morning after going out to take a dog that i care for on a walk. It was written by Jonathan Vaughters retelling an event in which a rider under his care was struck by a vehicle during a time trial in the Tour de Georgia years ago. The rider beforehand was a young, spunky, self confident cyclist ready to take on the world, fearing no man in his way. After the accident in the hospital after he regained consciousness for a short time he scribbled on some paper with his bloody finger to Jonathan "When can I ride again?". In that crash he was struck by a car that had went on course just after his police escort had passed and didnt care to look if anything was coming after that. On that day he punctured both lungs and fractured over a dozen bones.
Jonathan wrote in his story that "Seeing someone so hurt isn’t something pro cyclists like. They have to pretend that risk doesn’t exist. Being reminded of it only deflates their sense of invincibility. And without being invincible, in your mind, you will never succeed in professional cycling." As a competitive cyclist we dont like to hear about crashes or injuries and least of all the death of a fellow rider. At the end of the day no matter how much we want to win the race and sacrifice our bodies to accomplish victory when we cross the finish line we are all friends. I would even go as far to say we are like family. It is a condition that I feel that is lacking in most professional arenas.
After telling my wife about this she replied with "And you still want our kids to race bikes?" Without a second to think I immediately replied "Of course I do, Its still way safer than high school football." To which she came back with "People don't die in football." I dont have the statistics to back up my argument that cycling is safer than football, I know it to be true though. I have seen a number of stories about kids recieving numerous injuries that will affect them for the rest of their lives such and blown out knees and shoulders leading all the way up to paralyzation and death. Im not going to argue. Im going to go ride my bike and enjoy every second of it knowing that im lucky to be here today and getting to do what i love. Rest In Peace Wouter Weylandt 1984-2011.