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Niels De Vriendt, 20, passes away at Belgian race

Young Belgian amateur rider dies of heart failure after crashing at Wortegem-Petegem.

Niels De Vriendt, a 20-year-old amateur cyclist, passed away at a Belgian race Saturday.

The young Belgian, who rides for Team VDM-Van Durm-Michiels-Trawobo, was riding at Wortegem-Petegem, the first Belgian race in the restarted cycling season. De Vriendt died of heart failure. Although medical staff were on-hand to treat him immediately, nearly 40 minutes of resuscitation attempts proved ineffective.

The team confirmed the news on social media Saturday night, saying:

“VDM-Trawobo Cycling Team has been hit by deep grief by the passing of our promising rider Niels De Vriendt. The first race was fatal to him in Wortegem-Petegem due to heart failure. Emergency services have done everything to save Niels. The entire VDM family wishes strength to the affected family, riders, and Niels’ many friends. Rest in peace Niels. We will miss you.”

The race was organized by the family of Alpecin-Fenix rider Tim Merlier, and drew a handful of pros including Alpecin-Fenix pair Otto Vergaerde and Jonas Rickaert, as well as EF Pro Cycling’s Sep Vanmarcke.

“In the first lap some riders crashed in one of the corners,” Vanmarcke told Sporza Saturday night. “If the cardiac arrest caused by the fall or vice versa, I don’t know.”

“This immediately puts the race into perspective,” Vanmarke continued. “Everyone now knows their place on earth again. We are not a rider for a while, but just fellow human beings. This is a great pity.”

The passing of De Vriendt marks the continuation of a dark period in Belgian cycling that has seen the death of a number of young riders in recent years. Last August, Lotto-Soudal’s Bjorg Lambrecht, 22, crashed at Tour of Poland, and in March, 19-year-old elite rider Stef Loos, 19, died after being hit by a van at a race in Belgium.

VeloNews extends its condolences to De Vriendt’s family and friends.