I'm unable to write something meaningful on the death of Wouter
Weylandt. Better to let the words of those who knew him and those who
are more skilful scribblers express their sentiment about the man and
the sometimes cruel nature of professional road racing.
I am unbearably
saddened by the loss of Wouter today. As many know, he was my friend,
training partner, and in many ways, another brother to me. His death
marks an irreparable change in my life but more importantly, in the
lives of his family and most loved. Wouter was one of the kindest,
funniest, and most admirable people I have ever had the opportunity to
know and his death is a tragedy to his family, his friends, and to the
sport as a whole.
It hardly needs to be said that as cyclists and
fans we'd trade anything to have Weylandt back on his bike and in the
race. We'd give the jerseys off our backs, we'd give our bikes out from
under us, and we'd gladly suffer the indignity of a thousand years of
Grand Tour winner doping scandals. All of that stuff seems impossibly
small when something like this happens.
be a professional cyclist, you need to love it, otherwise you wouldn't
subject yourself to the training, suffering, long bus rides,
uncomfortable hotel beds, etc. It's not what you would call the most
luxurious lifestyle. But it's the life that so many of us have chosen to
lead simply because of our love for the bicycle. And while Wouter was
taken way too early from us, he was doing what he loved. Not many people
can say that.
The risks in road cycling at this level are truly
beyond comprehension for those of us who don't do it for a living. We
tend to focus on the strength, endurance and tactics required in the
climbs and the reflexes it takes to survive and prosper in bunch sprints
because they easily translate to television, which is how 99 percent of
us see races.
We think of construction as a dangerous job. But pro
cycling is, even among sports like auto racing and football, one of the
most perilous. I've mentioned before that Dan Coyle, in his book "Lance
Armstrong's War" calculated that in any given season, a pro cyclist ran a
roughly 25 percent chance of sustaining a crash-based injury severe
enough to keep him off the bike for at least a couple of weeks.
Follow Phil on Twitter: @Lycra_Lout