Mar 12, 2003

I’m shocked this morning to read on velonews.com about the death of Andre Kivilev. I remember Kivilev most from the 2001 Tour de France, where he was the only GC threat in a large breakaway on an early stage in the rain that managed to foil the peloton and finished about 35 minutes ahead of the pack. I took Lance and the rest of the contenders several days to catch up to them in the GC, and the whole time Kivilev was identified as the one person who could take advantage of such a large lead. As it was he ended up fourth. But now in stage two of Paris-Nice yesterday he was involved in a crash and landed head-first on the pavement. Of course, like most of the European peloton, he wasn’t wearing a helmet. I’ve been following professional cycling since Lance’s first win at the TdF in 99, so this is the first death during a major race since I’ve been around. They still talk about Fabio Casartelli all the time, who succumbed to a similar accident in the Tour in ’95, so its a big deal in the cycling world. Doesn’t seem to motivate them to wear helmets though. Bob Roll says it’s strictly a macho thing, there’s no other reason not to wear them. Considering how fast they go and how close together they are and how varying the course conditions are, its a wonder it doesn’t happen more often. Sprinters will typically wear them for potentially close finishes, but in mountain stages they sail down these steep declines without them because they don’t want to wear them on the way up.

We were innocent bystanders to a similar event in Arlington in the summer of 2000 for the first running of the “Tour of Arlington”, which turned out to be the first of only two, since the sponsor, BMC, couldn’t keep its end of the deal past that. The family and I showed up for the men’s race, since I wasn’t buying Velo News yet I wasn’t quite up to date on the domestic women’s field and at the time Saturn was so hugely dominant most of the races were a formality. But that was where Nicole Reinhart met her untimely end, colliding head-on into a tree on the last lap. The men’s race was cancelled and everybody just stood there stunned. Unlike something like auto racing where cars run around at 200 miles an hour, you don’t typically think of bike racing as a dangerous sport, but there’s definitely a certain amount of risk involved. Just getting out and riding around town I feel much more exposed and much more tentative on a bike than when I’m running on the same roads. The older I get the less I want to put myself in harm’s way, but at the same time you want to be able to ride somewhere. Either way, I plan on having the helmet. The UCI should think about doing the same.

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