Friday, January 4, 2013

Lejarreta, Stander, A Winter of Hard Hits...

The world of professional cycling has taken some hard hits lately, and they haven't all been of the self-inflicted variety. As the sport tries to struggle against the rip-tide of its troubled recent past, it has at the same time, had to come to grips with the tragic deaths of two talented young riders. On December 16, Inaki Lejarreta, the 2007 Spanish mountain bike National Champion, and nephew of former Vuelta Espana champion, Marino Lejarreta, was hit by a car and killed while training in his homeland. Early in his career, Lejarreta also showed a proficiency on both the road and track, with wins and top-ten placings in both disciplines.

Inaki Lejarreta (1983-2012)

On January 3, Burry Stander of South Africa was hit and killed by by a taxi in Shelly Beach, South Africa. Stander was the 2009 U-23 World Cross Country Champion, 2-time Cape Epic champion, and won the World Cup cross country race in Windham, New York in June 2012.

Burry Stander (1987-2013)

We tend to look at tragedies such as the loss of these two riders, and look at the loss of lives on our local roads and see differences. Riders in the international spotlight on the one hand, and on the other riders who are largely unknown beyond their own immediate circles of family, friends, and acquaintances. Truth be known though, the similarities are what matter. Whether from illegal practices, carelessness, neglect, whether pro cyclist or joe cyclist, people simply trying to get along continue to lose their lives on roadways around the world. The advertising media meanwhile reminds us on a daily basis of the thrill, and glamour of driving; never mind that the situations being portrayed are anything but realistic. After all, a blood-soaked roadway, a crumpled car, a picture of grieving family, are unlikely to boost sales. The cycling community needs to continue applying pressure for social and, political awareness and reform. Each loss needs to be remembered, given a face and a life; another tally in the statistics column just will not do.

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