Wouter Weylandt: loss of a champion

For cyclists every time they clip into their pedals and roll off the start line there is an implied danger that they all face. Crashes are commonplace but a death in the peloton is, thankfully, rare. Tragically a racer was lost during today’s stage of the Giro d’Italia.

Today was a day that knocks the wind out of us like a punch to the gut. On the descent of the Passo del Bocco, Wouter Weylandt (Leopard-Trek) crashed and lost consciousness. Within an hour of the stage’s conclusion it was reported that he died from injuries sustained in the crash. He was 26 and leaves behind a pregnant girlfriend.

The Belgian rider had a slow start to his professional career, but it was one on the rise. He’d won a stage in the 2008 Vuelta a Espana. In 2009 he rode in support of teammate Tom Boonen as he chased glory in the spring classics.
It was last year in stage 3 of the 2010 Giro that he last won a stage of a Grand Tour and cruelly it was stage 3 that claimed his life.

The day’s results in Italy became meaningless. How can you compare the victory of a bike race to a human life? You can’t.
At the time of this column the Leopard-Trek team was deciding if they would continue with the Giro.

It’s events like this can change your perspective. Here was a young man who was a member of the most prestigious team in professional cycling killed while racing his bike. It just doesn’t seem fair. Picking up the newspaper you occasionally read about a recreational cyclist that has been killed in an accident. Again, it just doesn’t seem fair.

I have written about cycling from all angles: doping, race reports, interviews and opinion pieces, but nothing makes you stop and think about what is important than death. It changes your perspective.

Perspective doesn’t only have to come from death. The day of the Athens Twilight race in Georgia I tagged along with the UnitedHealthcare professional racing team as they visited the pediatrics unit of the Athens Regional Hospital. Seeing the children, some just babies, with IVs in their arms gives you pause. You can’t help but be touched and left with some perspective on how valuable and precious life is. It’s a gut-check and I know the riders who visited the children felt the same. For the patients it was a moment’s distraction when the cyclists visited – but a valuable moment.

Today go out and do what you love to do – ride a bike, run in the park, walk in hills – whatever. Just do something that you enjoy. Do it with vigor and passion as champions like Wouter Weylandt do on race day.


  1. NiekeN says:

    Nice blog about a nice person/cyclist. My thoughts go this family and friends. I can still see him shine in Middelburg during the 2010 Giro. Still don’t believe we won’t see him again.

  2. @musclegal says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful piece. RIP Wouter Weylandt. My sympathies to his family and team for your tragic loss.

  3. Drew McIntosh says:

    Nice writing Neil! It truly was a mind-numbing day! The brief image of Wouter that came up on the screen was sickening and I just felt that this was a terrible crash and I was hoping for a better outcome. My thoughts have been for everyone who Wouter has ever touched, and especially for those closest to him. To his family, friends and teammates, my condolences for their loss.

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