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22-year-old dies after Criterium International heart attack

PARIS (AFP) — Belgian cycling suffered a double blow in 24 hours with Daan Myngheer’s death Monday from a heart attack following that a day earlier of Antoine Demoitie, who died after an incident at Gent-Wevelgem.

“A very sad week for the world of cycling,” said Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara in an outpouring of emotion among fellow riders.

Both riders were trained by the same coach, Kristof De Kegel, who reacted with disbelief: “The cycling gods are too hard! I’ve lost two great talents but above all two very warm people.”

Myngheer, 22, the 2011 Belgian junior champion who only turned professional last year, suffered the heart attack on Saturday after pulling up in the first stage of the Criterium International in Corsica.

He passed away at 7:08 p.m. Monday in a hospital in d’Ajaccio, on the island’s west, surrounded by his family and his partner Emely, his team Roubaix Metropole Lille said.

“It’s with great emotion that we announce the death of Daan,” the team said in a statement. “He lost his last race after battling like a great champion.”

“Rest in peace champion,” it added.

His death was another hammer blow to Belgian cycling after the 25-year-old Demoitie was killed in a collision with a motorbike during Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem.

The member of Belgian second-division team Wanty – Groupe Gobert fell around 150 kilometers into the race, in Sainte-Marie-Cappel. He was then hit by a motorbike while on the ground, before being transported to a hospital in Lille where he succumbed to his injuries.

Investigation

“Investigations will be undertaken into the rules applied during the Belgian race, the respect for safety distances. The collision did not take place at high speed,” public prosecutor Eric Foulard told AFP.

The motorcyclist was questioned by police in Dunkirk and was later released.

According to the magistrate, emergency services were only called half an hour after the initial examination by race doctors, and arrived 45 minutes after the incident.

Investigators will have to determine if this delay may have contributed to the cyclist’s death.

Myngheer, who would have turned 23 on April 13, pulled up in difficulty after just over an hour of racing in the first stage of Criterium International at Porto-Vecchio on Saturday.

“Daan couldn’t breathe… he was perspiring a lot. The race doctors saw immediately that it was serious. We have to thank the organizers for the speed with which they reacted. Daan was conscious when he got into the ambulance,” said team manager Daniel Verbrackel.

He suffered the heart attack while in the ambulance, before being transferred by helicopter to hospital in Ajaccio where he was put on artificial respiration and fell into a coma.

The young racer also had trouble during an amateur race in 2014, but doctors found no problems with his heart when they examined him immediately afterward.

He was also required to take new medical tests that winter, in France and Belgium, to keep his racing license.

“When he joined our team he was carefully examined from a medical point of view. There was nothing unusual, nothing to fear. Last year there was no problem,” Ivan De Schampelaer, the Verandas Willems team manager, told Flemish TV network Sporza.

Rigorous tests

Professional riders must undergo rigorous heart tests before obtaining their license and at the start of the season. Belgian Johan Vansummeren, winner of Paris-Roubaix in 2011, was stopped from competing by his Ag2r La Mondiale team to undergo further examinations. Vansummeren, 35, had been racing professionally since 2004.

Although it remains rare in professional cycling, there have been previous cases of deaths following heart problems.

Belgian Frederiek Nolf, 21, died in February 2009 in his hotel while competing in the Tour of Qatar, while France’s Fabrice Salanson, 23, suffered a heart attack and died in his sleep in 2003 during the Tour of Germany.

But Myngheer and Demoitie’s deaths exacerbate a tough start to the year for European cycling, which also includes the death of young hope Romain Guyot.

The 23-year-old Frenchman died in March when he was hit by a truck at a crossroads in the west of the country.

In January, six racers from the Giant – Alpecin team, including German John Degenkolb and Frenchman Warren Barguil, were injured in a collision with a car during a training ride south of Valencia.