Giro d’Italia Stage 4 – How Dangerous is Cycling?
As anticipated, Stage 4 of the Giro was neutralised with the peloton paying their respects to Wouter Weylandt. After the horrific news of Weylandt yesterday I couldn’t help but wonder which professional sport claims the most deaths. Cycling surely must be up there. The fact that there is no controlled stadium along with so many external variables such as poor road conditions, changing weather, equipment failures and extreme fatigue would seem to make cycling more dangerous than bull riding or sky diving. So I did a bit of Google research (yes, I know…far from being actual “research”).
According to Wikipedia, there have been nearly 100 professional cyclists who have died during competition since 1890 and about 30 who have died during their career because of other reasons (e.g. accident during training, physical complications, etc). In the history of the Tour de France there have been three deaths and in the Giro d’Italia there have been four.
Compare this to mainstream sports such as ice hockey, there have been only 8 deaths while in competition (documented in Wikipedia) and in professional soccer there have been nearly 80 deaths (many of which appear to have been heart related). In Boxing there have been 39 deaths due to injuries sustained in the ring. Race car driving appears to have had 338 deaths while in competition, Mountaineering has had 107 deaths (26 of them on Everest), and Motorcycle racing with 93 deaths.
What does this mean? Well, not much really unless I dug deeper to compare the cause of death in each case and the sample size in each sport. I’m on a beach in Thailand at the moment and have better things to do. If anyone can point out some real research on this topic I’d be keen to see it. However, I think it’s a fair observation to say that while serious accidents are quite common in professional cycling, the amount of deaths are comparatively low.
In last year’s Tour de France (Stage 2) the peloton led by Cancellara decided to neutralise the stage due to unsafe conditions. Many people criticised this decision and told the peloton to HTFU and race. As we saw yesterday, it doesn’t take dangerous roads and poor conditions to end in tragedy. Cycling fans love to see a good crash, but when you see a rider laying helplessly on the road (think of the images of Jens Voigt in 2009) it’s not so entertaining anymore. I think we should pay tribute to these athletes who risk their health and lives every time they go out and race for our entertainment and get paid very little for doing it.
Cam’s Giro Diary
Today was an emotional rollercoaster. It was hard to hold back the tears on the start line as a minute silence was held for yesterdays tragic passing of Wouter Weylandt.
As the Italian soldiers played remembrance music we reflected on the life that was lost and it was hard to think that the next 15 stages we must race on.
It was a fitting tribute by the united peleton to respect the family, friends and team mates of Wouter and so the day was neutralised. 216km is what we rode and each team went to the front and rode 10km at around 40km hour.
We were the last team to do our turn as David Millar is wearing the leaders jersey. With a couple of kilometres left David offered Wouter’s Leopard Trek team to cross the line first along with Tyler Farrar who was one of Wouter’s best friends.
After 6 hours on the bike, I think every rider was mentally and physically drained but the suffering is not on the scale that Wouter’s friends and family must be going through and so my prayers are with them.
Tomorrows stage will be hard and fast with the white gravel roads set to split up the group. Yes you probably remember the stage in mud at last years Giro but this year the sun is out so it will only be white dust. We have the leaders jersey and intend to defend it.
Stage 4 Photos
courtesy of Veeral Patel and RCS