RAPALLO, Italy — The 26-year-old Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt died Monday after a high-speed downhill crash at the Giro d’Italia. He is the first rider to be killed in a major cycling race in 16 years. Maria Paola Vercesi, a spokeswoman for race organizer RCS Sport, confirmed the death of Weylandt to The Associated Press.
Weylandt fell during a descent 12.4 miles from the finish in northern Italy and lay motionless and bleeding heavily on the roadside before paramedics removed his helmet and tried to resuscitate him.
“We arrived immediately as we were behind his group,” Giro doctor Giovanni Tredici said. “He was unconscious with a fracture of the skull base and facial damage. After 40 minutes of cardiac massage we had to suspend the resuscitation because there was nothing more we could do. Weylandt was the victim of a fall and we are still trying to reconstruct the dynamics of what happened. We tried immediately but he was already unconscious, his condition was already compromised.”
Weylandt was the first rider killed in a crash in one of cycling’s three main tours since Italian rider Fabio Casartelli died during the Tour de France in 1995. At the Giro, Weylandt is the fourth cyclist to die during the race and the first in 25 years. The three cyclists before him were Orfeo Ponsin in 1952, Juan Manuel Santisteban in 1976 and Emilio Ravasio in 1986.
Monday’s third stage, 107-mile ride from Reggio Emilia to Rapallo, was won by Angel Vicioso of Spain. On May 10, 2010, Weylandt won the third stage of the Giro on its final day in the Netherlands.
(photo above: © Sirotti)