RAPALLO, May 9, 2011 (AFP) – Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt was pronounced dead Monday following a horrific crash on the third stage of the Tour of Italy, his Leopard-Trek team confirmed.
“Today, our teammate and friend Wouter Weylandt passed away after a crash on the third stage of the Giro d’Italia,” said Leopard-Trek Manager Brian Nygaard.
“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.”
Weylandt, 26, was left bloodied and unconscious and requiring a cardiac massage after a crash which occurred on the descent of the Bocco mountain pass around 25km from the finish line.
Race officials later claimed his left pedal got stuck in a wall at the side of the road, forcing Weylandt to tumble around 65 feet to the ground below.
He received emergency medical treatment by race doctors and was scheduled to be airlifted to hospital but had to wait as an emergency helicopter looked for a suitable landing spot.
The head doctor on the race Dr Tredici said they had battled in vain to save Weylandt’s life.
“We were in the car behind the peloton. We arrived around 30 seconds after the accident but even then there was little we could have done. It was a very serious case,” he said.
“A few minutes later the ambulance with the CPR equipment arrived and we tried to bring him back to life.”
“His heart has stopped beating,” announced Auro Bulbarelli, the head of sport for RAI television who first broke the tragic news.
Weylandt, who spent the bulk of his career with the Belgian team Quick Step after turning professional in 2006, won the third stage of the race last year, in Middelburg, Netherlands.
He joined new Luxembourg team Leopard-Trek, the home of Australian Stuart O’Grady and the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank, at the start of the season.
Weylandt is the first rider to die in a crash while racing since Kazakhstan’s Andrei Kivilev succumbed to head injuries the morning after a crash on the second stage of Paris-Nice.
Kivilev’s death, while the rider was travelling at a seemingly innocuous speed, signalled the introduction of the mandatory wearing of helmets in the professional peloton.
Weylandt, who hailed from Ghent, is the first fatality on the Giro since 1986 when Emilio Ravasio crashed on the first stage and fell into a coma to die several days later.
Although life and career-threatening crashes are a regular occurrence in cycling, the last fatality on the world’s biggest race, the Tour de France, was over a decade ago.
On the race’s 15th stage in 1995 Italy’s Fabio Casartelli — a member of Lance Armstrong’s Motorola team — died a few hours after sustaining injuries in a crash on the descent of the Portet d’Aspet in the Pyrenees.
Following the tragedy race organisers cancelled the post-race ceremony in Rapallo, where Spaniard Angel Vicioso, of the Androni team, won the stage ahead of new race leader David Millar of Britain (Garmin).
A list of the principal fatalities in cycling following the death of Belgium’s Wouter Weylandt at the Giro d’Italia Monday:
1935: Armando Cepeda (ESP) dies from a fatal crash into a ravine going to Bourg-d’Oisans on the Tour de France.
1937: Andre Raynaud (FRA), the world distance champion dies during a race in Antwerp.
1950: Camille Danguillaume (FRA) is killed after being hit by a motorbike at the French championships in Montlhery.
1951: Serse Coppi (ITA), the brother of Italian legend Fausto Coppi, crashes one kilometre from the finish at the Tour du Piedmont in Italy. He finishes the race but dies the following night.
1956: Stan Ockers (BEL), the reigning world road race champion, dies in a crash on the track at Antwerp.
1967: Tom Simpson (GBR), the former world road race champion, dies from cardiac arrest — linked to his use of banned substances — on Mont Ventoux at the Tour de France.
1969: Jose Samyn (FRA) dies after crashing into a programme vendor during a kermesse in Zingem.
1970: Jean-Pierre Monsere (BEL), the reigning world champion, dies after colliding with a car driving the wrong way at the Grand Prix de Retie.
1972: Manuel Galera (ESP) dies from injuries sustained in an accident during the Tour of Andalusia.
1976: Juan Manuel Santisteban (ESP) dies from injuries after a crash on the first stage of the Giro d’Italia.
1984: Joaquim Agostinho (POR) dies 10 days after crashing into a dog near the finish of a stage in the Tour of the Algarve.
1986: Emilio Ravasio (ITA) dies two weeks after a crash on the first stage of the Giro d’Italia.
1987: Vicente Mata (ESP) dies after being hit by a car during the Luis-Puig Trophy. Michel Goffin (BEL) dies after a six-day spell in a coma following a crash at the Tour du Haut-Var in France.
1988: Connie Meijer (NED) dies after suffering an attack during a criterium in the Netherlands.
1995: Fabio Casartelli (ITA), the reigning Olympic champion, dies a few hours after sustaining injuries in a crash on a Pyreneean descent during the 15th stage of the Tour de France.
1999: Manuel Sanroma (ESP) dies from injuries sustained in a crash near the finish of the second stage of the Tour of Catalunya.
2003: Andrei Kivilev (KAZ) dies from head injuries the morning after a crash on the second stage of Paris-Nice.
2005: Alessio Galletti (ITA), dies from a heart attack 15 km from the finish in the Subida Naranco race.
2011: Wouter Weylandt (BEL) dies following a horrific crash around 25 km from the finish of the Giro d’Italia’s third stage.