The Cycle Life: Cyclist dies at the Giro d'Italia

4599240736_c267f50139_zWeylandt winning Stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia, May 10, 2010 viaFlickr

Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt died on Monday following a crash on a technical descent during stage three of the Giro d'Italia.

Weylandt, 27, fell heavily at the back of the peloton as the group raced down the lower flanks of the third-category Passo del Bocco, 12.4 miles from the finish. Though it's unclear what caused the crash, speeds were high as the racers ramped up for the closing miles and several racers later commented on the tricky descent, noting the steep pitches and constant turns. Television cameras captured footage of the Leopard Trek cyclist lying immobile on the roadside, as race doctors, who arrived just minutes after the crash, removed Weylandt's helmet and administered CPR. After 40 minutes of trying to resuscitate the cyclist, officials transported the body to hospital, where Weylandt was confirmed dead.

Because the severity of the crash wasn't immediately known, the stage continued to the finish in Rapallo and riders didn't learn of Weylandt's death until they crossed the line. Angel Vicioso (Androni Giocatolli) won the stage and David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) assumed the race lead, but Giro organizers cancelled the podium ceremonies in light of the tragedy.

Team Leopard Trek released the following statement: "Today, our teammate and friend Wouter Weylandt passed away after a crash on the third stage of the Giro d’Italia. The team is left in a state of shock and sadness and we send all our thoughts and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Wouter. This is a difficult day for cycling and for our team, and we should all seek support and strength in the people close to us.” There was no immediate announcement about whether or not the team would continue in the Giro d'Italia.

Weylandt was a promising young rider with many wins to his name. He won the Under-23 Tour of Flanders in 2004 before turning professional with Quickstep in 2005. His biggest achievements included third place at the 2008 edition of the Gent-Wevelgem spring classic and first place at stage 17 of the Vuelta a España in 2008. His death comes one year to the day after he won stage three of the 2010 Giro d'Italia.

Deaths in the pro peloton are rare but not unheard of. Italian Thomas Casaratto died last September after crashing into a car at the Giro del Friuli, and Andrei Kivilev passed away from his injuries after a crash in the 2003 Paris-Nice left him in a coma. Kivilev's death was the impetus for the UCI to implement a mandatory helmet rule in all of its races. The last time a racer died in a grand tour was in the 1995 Tour de France, when Italian Fabio Casartelli, who was riding alongside Lance Armstrong at Motorola, crashed while descending the Col de Portet d'Aspet and struck his head on a concrete block.

Outside sends its sincere condolences to Weylandt’s family, friends, and teammates.

 --Aaron Gulley 

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