Balance. It can be achieved by never deviating from the middle, or it can be achieved by violent swings to and fro. It is said, however, that the great peaks can’t be reached without crossing through deep valleys. Tragically, we were reminded today that our sport is one of great peaks and deep, deep valleys.
Cycling is a sport of risk and danger; the beauty and harmony of a speeding peloton masks the risks and dangers involved. Mountain descents see riders reach speeds of 80 or more kilometers per hour with little to protect them should something go wrong. Stars and watercarriers alike share in the risk; no one is immune.
You have to love this sport intensely to become a professional. The nature of road competition demands great sacrifice in every aspect of the athlete’s life; eat like birds, work like horses, and live like monks. Not only does a professional cyclist spend every waking moment focussed on their sport, but from January to October, they are away from their families as the race calendar carries them all over Europe and, increasingly, the world. This sacrifice is most often in the service of others, as the Stars are few and the Watercarriers many.
While only a few weeks ago we watched as one of these domestiques reached the pinacle of our sport by winning Paris-Roubaix, today we witnessed the tragic swing to the other end as Wouter Weylandt lost his life in the pursuit of his passion. We can be philosophical and say this man lived for his sport and died doing what he loved, but the fact of the matter is that his is a man who, at 26 years old, was in the prime of his life and that he died today is tragic beyond articulation.
As Velominati, we are disciples of cycling. Our lives revolve around cycling. At moments like these, it is unimaginable that life and sport will continue. It will, and we will again reach the peaks. But we breathe still, and our devotion cannot follow where others’ continue.
Today we walk through a valley and mourn as Velominati the tragic loss of a man who gave everything – everything – to his sport. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends, and colleagues.