Yesterday we got a stark reminder of how dangerous the sport of cycling can be when Wouter Weylandt was killed during Stage 3 of the Giro de Italia. It’s always a sad day when a cyclist dies regardless if it’s a pro racing a grand tour or a local rider out training or commuting. You never want to see someone lose their life doing something they love. The events of yesterday did get me thinking while I was out riding this morning as I’m sure it did a lot of you too.

The events surrounding Wouter Weylandt’s crash are still sketchy as there were apparently only one or two witnesses. It appears they were on a very technical descent and Wouter took his eyes off the road in order to assess the situation behind him. During this brief period he clipped a wall with his pedal or handlebar which caused the crash that lead to death. I haven’t read it in any of the reports but it appears his death was instantaneous which points towards a very gruesome and catastrophic crash. Unfortunately accidents like this do happen in pro cycling. I vividly remember watching the Tour de France in 1995 when Fabio Casartelli was also killed on a descent.

While riding this morning I couldn’t help but reflect on yesterday’s events and it struck me that the cause of his crash, a glance backwards, seems so benign in the whole scheme of things. Sure, they were on a technical descent, going fast, but how many times do you think he, or other pros, have taken that look? They probably do it without a thought so they can assess whose getting dropped, to check on a teammate, or to look for potential partners on the descent.

How many times have you made that look?

How many times you have you performed a seemingly innocent action on the bike not realizing the potentially devastating impact it could have? A look over the shoulder before changing lanes. Fiddling with the wrapper of an energy bar or gel. Taking an aggressive line into a corner. Adjusting your Ipod. Grabbing your water bottle. Switching bottles between cages. Overlapping wheels on a group ride. The list goes on.

All of us have done this stuff at one point or another (although I don’t use an Ipod on the bike). It’s part of cycling. But these are all actions that, over time, can lead to complacency. Complacency that can lead to injury or death.

Don’t get me wrong. There are dangers in almost everything we do and cycling is no different. I’m just trying to remind everyone to keep their wits about them while out on the bike. Think ahead. Look for the danger spots and areas. Stay focused on your riding when the situation warrants and return home safe.

PhotoC: Onohiroki