Marijn de Vries is an ex-pro cyclist and now a hobby cyclist, a writer, speaker, organiser of cycling trips, and editor in chief of Pedala Magazine. Marijn is also a weekly columnist in Trouw (https://www.trouw.nl) where this brilliant article was seen last week
The morning starts calmly. My window and the television, they play Droste: a little morning mist, a hint of autumn color, and a hesitant sun. The cycling day starts calmly. A group is cycling away. Six, seven minutes. I also cycle away. The haze just gave way to rain, and now to bright sun. Wet streets, leaves on it. Yellow, brown. I saw red dresses on TV, set on fire by a cautiously rising sun in Flanders. Below that: the peloton. Everything calm. Ready for what’s to come. I listen to the radio. Addy Engels, the sports director of Jumbo-Visma, has the floor. He talks about withdrawing from the Giro. About the crazy cycling year. But also about beautiful things. About the fantastic Wout van Aert. Suddenly the questions are about Wouter Weylandt. How it started exactly has escaped me. I looked at the sun, the road, the last flowers. This year I regularly think about him. Why? I do not know.
In six months it will be a decade ago that he fell in a descent in the Giro and died. Addie knew him well, they were teammates for years. He is shocked by the radio fragments about Wouter’s accident and death. Swallows. Stick. Tells on anyway. About the simple sentence on Wouter’s funeral card: “Think less, live more”. It changed him, as a human. I was once on the river Scheldt, on almost the same day as today. I cycled with Wouter’s sister Elke. Sometimes the sun was shining, then there was a cloud again. Wet roads. We stopped at a monument on the Jaagpad between Ghent and Oudenaarde, a monument to her brother. Think less, live more. Elke also spoke about it. After his death, she had become part of the cycling world, as a press woman in her brother’s old team. To feel what he had been part of and always will be through her. He should have cycled along today, I think when I get back home to the TV. It could have been easy. Wouter would have been just 36 now. At the time one of the biggest talents in the peloton, he might now have fought against Van der Poel and Van Aert. Or – more likely perhaps – he was also an old guard who just can’t keep up when the young guys leave. They are going. Mathieu and Wout. Legs in exactly the same rhythm, they look like a machine together, steaming on their way to the finish line. Under orange canopies, they race together until speed slows down and almost comes to a stop. Van der Poel in the lead. Van Aert behind it. Slower. Mathieu, his back curving and stretching feline. Van Aert, apparently cool. They are waiting. So long. Then still, the sprint! Mathieu wins. The long strokes with which he sobs bring me back to my senses. What a denouement. The most beautiful in years, perhaps. Without an audience. I didn’t even think about it while I watched – let alone missed the cheering, the crowds over crush barriers, the people on the side.
All the races canceled, the sports games that have been stopped again, the life that has come to a halt again, the gloomy prospects of when there will be another start: I didn’t think about it for a second. I cycled. I watched the bicycles. And thought of Wouter Weylandt. I’ll keep him with me for weeks, months, but a little bit, I guess. Think less, live more, Marijn de Vries