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The Italian news agency RAI is reporting that Leopard-Trek’s Wouter Weylandt died after crashing out of the Giro d’Italia Monday.
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His heart has stopped beating,” announced RAI’s head of sport Auro Bulbarelli.
Weylandt, 26, was left bloodied and unconscious and requiring a cardiac massage after a crash that occurred on the descent of the Bocco mountain pass around 25km from the finish line.
Race officials later said his left pedal got stuck in a wall at the side of the road, forcing Weylandt to tumble around 20 meters 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.
Weylandt, who spent the bulk of his career with the Belgian team Quick Step after becoming professional in 2006, won the third stage of the Giro last year, in Middelburg, Netherlands.
Weylandt is the first professional rider to die in a crash since 2003 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.