Friday, 13 May 2011

Giro tragedy puts everything in context

Below is a blog written by Tom Southam, a British Professional Cyclist with regard to the tragic death of Wouter Waylandt in the Giro D'Italia. It is so good I reproduce here in full.


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Thu May 12 11:55AM

It is hard to find a way to write a blog about cycling at the moment. It would seem that the sport has been in the news for the most tragic of reasons this week with the sad passing of the Belgian professional Wouter Weylandt at the Giro d'Italia.

I really didn’t want to open up a blog with such a morbid tone, but I suppose the idea is to write about what is on my mind and at present, the risks we (bike riders) take, knowingly or otherwise, is something that is suddenly on the minds of bike riders and their families the world over.

It is always hard to be brought so harshly into reality by a shocking image or the horrific news that something so tragic has happen to someone doing something that we don’t ever consider to have such grave consequences.

I was watching the Eurosport coverage live on Monday when the tragic events unfolded. I instantly recalled the memory of the day I skipped a day of school with my Dad to watch the queen stage of the 1995 Tour de France.

The events of that day are also burned deeply into my conscious; I was 15 and clearly remember the awful silence that preceded David Duffield’s announcement, some hours after the crash, that Fabio Casartelli had been pronounced dead.

That sudden silence on the TV, probably while the distressed commentator has to try to work out just what he is hearing down his headphones, has a sound like the moment that fire starts to steal oxygen, a split second of nothing - before the roar of flames.

As a kid, I had no experience of what was going on. There was a total detachment from what was happening. These were grown men, from lands overseas, doing something that was so far removed from anything in my young life. I understood it was an awful day, but that was all.

On Monday - sat on my couch as a 29-year-old man - I was chilled to hear that same silence. These days there exists no longer the barriers of age, distance and impossibility to keep me from feeling the impact of what was unfolding on the television.

Racing, although at a much lower level, is exactly how I make my living, my friends and acquaintances are now in the very race I was tuned to, and what’s more most of these guys are even younger than me.

It puts it all into context and it becomes an overpowering thought. One can only imagine the thoughts running through the riders still in the race, riding the same roads with the same risks. These are the days when you think of every single near miss; every time you walked away thinking things could have been so much worse.

Sadly things don’t get much worse than this, these incidents that punctuate the sport ever so occasionally are a shocking reminder of the risks taken by professional bike riders.

The continuation of the Giro is oddly the only redemptive outcome here. A metaphor if one was needed for the realisation that life might be no way to treat an animal on occasion, but the only way to deal with it is continuing onwards as best you can.

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