Finally, it is one of my favorite times of the year. The weather is warmer, people nicer, and the grand tours are beginning with the Giro D'Italia. I absolutely love watching the skill and incredible speeds of professional cycling... but my excitement this morning to watch the Giro was instantly turned to stomach turning anxiety for a fellow cyclist.
As I turned on the television I noticed an almost shattering silence in the voices of the announcers. The excitement and passion usually found in such amazing races was dwarfed by something I had missed. Only seconds later I heard them speak of a terrible crash. My heart sank when I learned that the crash was on one of the curvy descents of the Giro as I am well aware of the speeds that can be reached. I heard talk of frantic attempts to revive the cyclist involved... but the voices held abeyance to the weight of what was happening.
At first they could not even say for sure who was involved in the crash, but they (correctly) thought that it was cyclist for the newly formed Leopard-Trek team (founded by two of my favorite riders the Schleck brothers) Wouter Waylandt. He was hurling down a mountain descent at speeds that normally only motor vehicles reach when it was reported he looked back to check his place. At this crucial second either his petals or handlebars on the left side clipped a small wall at incredible speed which hurled him to the other side of the road where he sustained terrible and ultimately fatal head and face trauma. Wouter Waylandt was only one year older than myself at only 26 years old, and has tragically left his girlfriend with their unborn child far too soon.
Waylandt is the first rider to pass in a crash in one of cycling's three main tours since Italian rider Fabio Casartelli died on a descent in the 1995 Tour de France. Waylandt is the fourth cyclist to die in the Giro D'Italia's history and the first in 25 years to die while participating in the race. Last year, in the 2010 Giro D'Italia, Waylandt arrived for a stage 3 win, the same stage that they were riding on this dark day... this time a much more tragic end to an enigmatic career. One thing should be certain, in the cycling world, Waylandt will never be forgotten.
RIP Wouter Waylandt... you will be missed.