Anyone who reads this blog will know this family’s love of Cycling – well mainly The Daddy and 5yr old Miles but that obsession can’t help but permeate the rest of the family to some extent. At the moment there is a major tour event in Italy called The Giro d’Italia we’ve been watching as much as SBS screens and catching up on the highlights, rejoicing when Miles’ favourite sprinter Mark Cavendish is in the leaders jersey (Tilly loves it cause it’s PINK!) and looking forward to each next stage.
Earlier this week a young 26yr old rider for Leopard Trek died in a tragic accident on stage 3. Wouter Weylandt was on a fast decent when his pedal touched the fence and he was flipped over it to plunge 20 meters – he died instantly. The journalistic tributes paint Wouter was a talented young rider who, in a tragic irony, won the third stage in last years Giro. I don’t know very much about professional cycling so I don’t have a huge insight to add to the copious sports commentary that has covered the accident, but I felt a little like I experienced it from a different perspective. As a mother I can’t help but relate it to how I’d feel if it were Miles, as I know that at the moment professional cycling is his dream. Parents should not be burying their child ever and at 26 he was only just starting to live. Wouter’s wife was pregnant with their first child, due in September, and I think about her and her immense grief, wondering how she’s going to get through these next weeks, months and years. The rest of the pregnancy, the birth and the late awake hours, who’s hand will go on her belly when the baby rolls, who will cut the cord after her labour, who will hold the camera when the little one takes it’s first steps to mum. How do you relate the desperate loneliness of living without your partner with the immense joy of seeing that same person mirrored in the features of your child.
While all of these thoughts are tumbling around this tragedy I watched a sport salute a fellow rider. In the next race of the Giro the riders took a minute silence and then the race was neutralised meaning that no team raced. Each team took 10kms at the front to the peloton riding but not racing to the finish line. The race route was lined with spectators – the coverage said ‘polite applause’ but I saw it as more than that – people were clapping their sadness for the loss of Wouter and support for the riders who were saluting him, it reminded me greatly of a funeral procession and what more appropriate way to say goodbye? The final part of the ride was led by his Leopard Trek team mates and his best friend and fellow rider Tyler Farrar, watching the peloton drop back to give his team mates space and focus brought the tears for me, it was amazing to watch and the boys all crossed the finish line arm in arm. The prize money from the stage was donated to Wouter’s family. The Leopard Trek team and Tyler Farrar then chose to discontinue the tour.
As I watched the coverage I thought about other sports that have lost athletes, and while a minute’s silence is common I can’t imagine a Formula 1 race not being contested or an international tennis round not completed in honour of a lost sportsman. To not contest a race and yet to ride in honour of Wouter showed to me a solidarity within the sport and a respect that each of the riders has for each other. While many might expect that a tribute such as this would be understandable if say it were the loss of a Lance Armstrong, I LOVE that it was as important to the sport and the cyclists the loss of a friend, team mate and young talent.
To the sport of professional cycling I would like to say – you have many detractors, but this week I was so proud of you. You have outdone yourselves and the respect you’ve shown to Wouter Weylandt and his family is incredible. Well done.