Tragic news from the Giro d’Italia today

BikeSnobNYC’s words brought a lump to my throat, i totally dig what he’s saying:

Today’s stage of the Giro d’Italia, and indeed the entire race, will of course be overshadowed by the death of Wouter Weylandt.

For the cycling fan, the beauty of a race like the Giro is that, in its intensity and duration, it is an immersive experience that evokes all the comedy and drama of life. We all live the race for three weeks, and we hope and expect the race will be brutal, since that brutality is what wrings out the excitement. However, the unwritten agreement we have with the race is that it should stop short of forcing either the riders or us to confront death. It broke that agreement today.

For anybody this is tragic; for us it’s even more painful and profound. This is because so many of us who follow the sport of cycling are cyclists ourselves. Not only can we empathize with the sadness of Weylandt’s family, friends, and teammates but we can also imagine his last moments much more intimately and vividly than we’d like. We’ve all crashed at one time or another, and even if we haven’t been seriously hurt on a bike we all know somebody who has. We know what it feels like when the exhilaration of riding suddenly becomes the horror of losing control, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who could practically hear that scissor snip next to my ear when we saw the doctors cutting Weylandt’s helmet straps.

There’s often a sad irony in what we’re thinking immediately before something awful happens. In this case, before the crash, as I watched today’s stage I was thinking about last year’s Giro and those gray, surreally crash-filled opening days in the Netherlands. By contrast, I mused, this year’s Giro had been sunny and smooth, and the only calamity had been Katusha’s team time trial. Then Weylandt fell.

Even then, like many others, I allowed myself to think that he’d be OK, and that the crash probably looked worse than it was. I lost myself in the thrilling run-in to the finish. The enormity of what had happened didn’t come home until after the rest of the riders did—that Weylandt had died on stage three, the same stage he’d won in the Netherlands the year before.

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. In the coming days, the race and the fans will struggle to come to grips with this. In the meantime, let’s think fondly of Weylandt. Tomorrow’s stage will be an emotional one, but at least we’ll have an opportunity to join the riders in paying tribute, and hopefully there will be comfort in that.

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