If you want to learn more about Wouter Weylandt watch the closing kilometres of stage three of last year’s Giro d’Italia, writes Matthew Keenan.
If you want to learn more about Wouter Weylandt watch the closing kilometres of stage three (video player opens in new tab) of last year's Giro d’Italia.
It was a chaotic sprint, on tight and dangerous Dutch roads into Middelburg, with the sprinters fighting for wheels and rubbing elbows as only they can.
But with the mayhem around him Wouter exudes an air of calmness. The clear thinking is obvious. His class shines through and he wins the stage.
The Wouter you see in this stage reflects the person I was lucky enough to have a few brief chats with at various bike races around the world.
Wouter really was one of the good guys.
He was one of the guys that would take you and I further into a race and behind the scenes because he was generous with his time, in-fact he was generous by nature. You could always ask for some insight into what the team’s plans were for the day.
My first international commentary gig was at the 2007 Tour of Qatar and I was lucky enough to bump into Wouter on my way to the dining room for breakfast.
After introducing myself, I declared I was nervous about calling the race. Wouter, 10 years my junior, provided parent-like calming words, declaring that with it being the first race of the season the whole peloton would be nervous, and not to worry because he and his Quick-Step teammates intended to make the most of the wind, which would give me plenty to talk about.
He was true to his word.
I last spoke with Wouter at the start of the final stage of this year's Paris-Nice. As I picked his brain on what to expected on the stage he spotted an official's car nearby and suggested we jump in to get out of the rain. The first door he tried was locked but he checked the other three just to be sure. It really was cold.
Wouter was only 26 and had already won 11 races, including two grand tour stages, last year's Giro stage 3 and stage 17 of the 2008 Vuelta a Espana.
There was plenty more to come in his cycling career but more importantly in his life beyond the bike. His partner is due to give birth to their first child in September.
No partner should have to bury the father of their unborn child. And no parent should have to bury one of their children. Only those who have experienced such loss can truly comprehend it.
Although Wouter's passing happened in one of the biggest bike races in the world it's something the whole cycling community, right around the globe, will be affected by because we've all felt a sense of vulnerability at some point on the road.
If I can take anything from Wouter's death it’s that I was lucky to have met him and it's a reminder to be grateful for what I have.
Before going to bed tonight I’m going hug my wife and daughter a little tighter than normal and spare a thought for Wouter and his family.