This picture probably doesn’t look like much, nor mean anything, to anyone who isn’t into professional cycling, but if you’ve been following the Giro d’Italia these past couple of days you understand the emotional impact of this picture.
In a normal professional race, whole teams never cross the finish line together like in this photo, and that is because this photo, from yesterday’s stage 4 finish, has a deeper meaning. During stage 3 on Monday not only did British rider David Millar pull a great tactical move to get himself the pink leader’s jersey, but cycling also suffered a major loss.
During one of the descents, Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt was involved in a fatal crash. The last time professional cycling saw a rider die during a race was the Paris-Nice classic in 2003.
It was decided that yesterday’s stage would be neutralized, meaning no one would try to “win” the stage and everyone would just ride. Before the day’s race began a moment of silence was taken in honor of Weylandt.
At the end of the stage, all the other teams fell back allowing Weylandt’s teammates from the Leopard-Trek team and his best friend American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo team) to cross the finish line together. After yesterday’s stage both the Leopard-Trek team and Farrar left the race because there was too much emotional trauma for them to continue.
There’s something about the cycling community that makes it one of immense respect. Whether I’m riding along highway 68 in Monterey receiving and giving waves at every rider going in the opposite direction, or it’s the professional community sacrificing a stage during an international race to honor a fallen friend, the level of mutual respect runs high (sure there are the occasional jerks who think they’re too cool or fast to wave, but no one really likes them anyways).
To find that kind of mutual respect is a rare gem these days since we’re so isolated. We drive in cars secluded from the outside air, only talk to those we want to via phones, and share pictures with those we choose on facebook. Sometimes I fear that with the digitizing of world will only make us loose one another. That if someone dies the only impact I will suffer will be a loss of updates about their midterms or not seeing their avatar anymore of 4chan.
Humans are great little creatures with the ability to form intense bonds with one another, bonds that actually mean something. Bonds much like the one that existed between Farrar and Weylandt. Bonds that exist outside the realms of cyberspace and actually bleed into real life.
In cycling I feel a unity with the people on the road because we both suffer from the same threat of cars, potholes, and sketchy turns. To truly be in community with others has a certain level of fear attached to it, that’s why going on facebook is easier than showing up to a random party, but in order to have these great experiences, to one day stand upon the winners podium, we need to take chances and accept the consequences.
Every professional rider knows that they may die at any moment during a race, but to them the reward is well worth the risk.
I just hope that one-day when my time here is done, my friends can join arms in remembrance of me.