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by Shane Stokes
February 19, 2015
Three days after suffering a severe stroke, the 1984 world road race champion Claude Criquielion has sadly lost his battle for life.
The 58 year old was reported as being in a deep coma following his illness and passed away at 9am Wednesday morning in the General Municipal hospital in Aalst.
His death was confirmed by the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, who described him as ‘a great champion.’
The Belgian rider competed as a professional between 1979 and 1991 and reached his zenith when he took the world road race championship at Barcelona in 1984.
He highlighted his talent before then, taking Brabantse Pijl in 1982 and also finishing in the top five in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Paris-Nice. He went on to land the Clásica de San Sebastiàn in 1983 and then collected that worlds success plus the GP Eddy Merckx in 1984.
Criquielion shrugged off the so called curse of the rainbow jersey the following year when he finished first in Flèche Wallonne and second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Further victories followed in the GP du Midi Libre in 1986, the Tour of Flanders and Memorial Samyn in 1987, Flèche Wallonne in 1989 plus the Belgian road race championships in 1990.
However besides being a top one day rider, he also had considerable ability in the Grand Tours. He was a career-best fifth overall in the 1986 Tour de France and was also ninth in 1979, 1981, 1984 and 1990, thus showing he was a strong climber in the bigger mountains.
Despite his many successes, the image many will remember of him is when he crashed during the finishing sprint in the 1988 world road race championships. He and Steve Bauer (Canada) were sprinting for the win and the latter appeared to edge him into the barriers.
The Italian Maurizio Fondriest, who had looked set for third, swooped to take the title. Bauer was disqualified.
Criquielion was devastated to lose out on his chance of taking a second rainbow jersey on what was home soil and sued Bauer, arguing he would otherwise have won. However after the case rumbled on for three years, a judge eventually dismissed the claim.
As expected, the cycling world is mourning Criquielion’s passing today.
Sporza gathered Twitter reactions from the peloton, some of which follow:
Philippe Gilbert: Reposes en paix Claudy. Mes condoléances à ses proches. [Rest in peace Claudy. My condolences to his dear ones].
Rik Verbrugghe: Mon idole et ancien directeur sportif Claudy Criquelion nous a quitter … Triste et je pense très fort à sa famille [My idol and former directeur sportif Claudy Criquelion has left us. I’m sad and I think very srongly of his family].
Koos Moerenhout: Sad news. #RIP Claude Criquieleon #Champ
Kristof Ramon: Too young to die. Goodbye old hero Claude Criquelion. I loved how you raced.
UCI: RIP Claude Criquielion. All our thoughts are with family and friends. #worldchamp
Greg Van Avermaet: RIP Claude Criquielion. Een jaar achter @KristofG13 verliezen we terug een groot kampioen! Sterkte aan de familie. [RIP Claude Criquielion. A year behind @ KristofG13 we lose again a great champion! Strength to the family].
Axel Merckx: Adieu Claudy. Merci pour ses moments intenses . Sincères condeances a tous ses proches! [Goodbye Claudy. Thanks for his intense moments. Sincere condolences to all who were close to him].
We at CyclingTips express our condolences to his family, friends and all who knew him.