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The parents of the recently-departed junior world time trial champion Igor Decraene have moved to dismiss media reports which emerged following his tragic death early on Saturday morning, insisting that suggestions he took his own life are completely untrue.
On September 24th of last year the Belgian beat Mathias Krigbaum (Denmark) and Zeke Mostov (United States of America) by 8.66 and 20.97 seconds respectively, winning his world title.
He had been in recent talks with the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team and while it no longer has a youth setup, the squad has said that plans were made to support the rider in his development. He had been predicted by some as likely to turn pro with the WorldTour team.
Decraene had a year affected by injury, but recently bounced back and won two time trials. He stated that he planned to try to take another world title in Ponferrada, Spain.
However the possibility of a second gold medal evaporated when news emerged on Saturday that he had passed away.
According to the Belga news agency, Decraene’s death was self-inflicted. This contradicted the RTBF Sport website, which quoted the Belgian federation la Ligue Vélocipédique Belge (RLVB) and his club De Tieltse Rennersclub as saying that he was victim of a ‘tragic accident.’
It later emerged that his body had been found on railway tracks, having been hit by a train.
Dries Demuytere of the K.S.A Waregem sports climb in Decraene’s local area issued a clarification on Facebook on Sunday, categorically denying the claims that the rider had taken his own life.
“The parents of Igor Decraene have just had confirmation from the Public Prosecutor that the accident was NOT about suicide!” he wrote on social media. “My parents were just with them when they heard the news and they were very happy to have this going around fast, and they want as quickly as possible to a correction in the press.
“This is obviously very important to them! For those who knew him, please also continue to tell it to all your friends, so that it is a very unfortunate accident and not a suicide. Thanks!”
This message was retweeted by the Omega Pharma QuickStep general manager Patrick Lefevere, who added a comment that appeared to be directed at the areas of media who claimed the death was self-inflicted.
“For the non believers. Think before you speak,” he stated.
Friends and training partners deny:
The publication HLN.be has printed more details about the tragedy, saying that the rider had gone to a birthday party and sounded drunk in a phone call made to him by his mother. His parents had offered to collect him but he told them that he was heading directly home.
However he never turned up and his body was later found on the tracks at Zulte, approximately seven kilometres from the farm where his parents and four brothers live. He had been hit by a train at 5.35 am.
The publication speculates that his passing may have been self-inflicted as the area of tracks where he was found is not normally accessible to the public. However it also quotes several who knew him and who dismiss such thoughts.
His friend and training partner Emiel Planckaert said that Decraene had seemed happy when they shared a room at a Belgian team training camp last week. “It was an internship as always: we trained in the morning and in the afternoon we watched movies and we were laughing,” he stated. “I certainly did not noticed that Igor had something on his mind.”
He knew the junior world champion four years and has good memories. “We also trained together, often along the Lys. Those were great moments. Igor was a talker, both on and off the bike. We have lost some laughter. And in the winter, after the cycling season, we regularly went to a party. Beautiful memories.”
HLN.be said that several of his school friends were at the party last Friday and that he enjoyed himself there. They said that they saw no reason for him to harm himself.
It is the same story with the president of his Tieltse Renners club. “Igor was just very excited, he had reached his best form yet since his knee surgery in June,” he said, referring to the injury the rider had this year. His team manager Koen Dutoit confirms this, and points out he recently won two time trials by over a minute.
Both Planckaert and team-mate Jordi Warlop both say that they don’t believe his death was deliberate. Planckaert said that Decraene had spoken to him about his plans and ambitions for the future; Warlop said that he picked up nothing peculiar in his mood on Friday.
“On Friday night, when he was at home, we texted. What? Oh, guys’ talk. We were laughing. His last text messages that he sent me were also full of smileys.
“No, I can only say that his death was an accident. Right beside the place where Igor was hit, there is also a bike path. I repeat, it was an accident.”
CyclingTips offers condolences to Igor Decraene’s family, friends and team-mates.