UPDATE: The organizers of the Tour of Switzerland decided to hold the final two stages of the race this weekend, but three teams, including the Bahrain-Victorious team, employee Gino Mäder, announced that they had withdrawn.
A Swiss bicycle racer who crashed on a fast descent during the Tour de Suisse died on Friday, a day after he and another competitor fell into a ravine in the Swiss Alps.
The cyclist, Gino Mäder of Switzerland, was transported to hospital after Thursday’s accident, but died of his injuries on Friday morning, his team, Bahrain-Victorious, said in a statement.
Friday’s stage was canceled after the race organizers informed the other teams and the other riders in the race about the death of 26-year-old Mäder some 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. The tour, a major warm-up race for next month’s Tour de France, is scheduled to continue until Sunday.
Some pilots burst into tears after hearing the news along with the rest of the competitors. Race organizers said the peloton would ride part of the scheduled route on Friday in honor of Mäder. The race is expected to resume on Saturday.
Mäder crashed along with an American cyclist, Magnus Sheffield, on stage 5 of the week-long race, a day that ends with a final descent through the Albula Pass in the Swiss Alps. The final section where the accident took place, down an unprotected mountain road with mountains to its left and a steep incline just beyond its right edge, was virtually empty when the cyclists traversed it.
Mäder and Sheffield were treated where they rested, near a set of drainage pipes down a steep slope. Sheffield, who was reported to have suffered a concussion and cuts and bruises, appeared to be able to walk back up the hill with help. Mäder was more seriously injured. After initial treatment, he was evacuated from the scene by helicopter.
“Gino Mäder lay motionless in the water”, race organizers said in a statement after the accident “He was immediately resuscitated and then transported to Chur hospital by air ambulance.”
Mäder and Sheffield apparently fell off their bikes and then went down an embankment, according to another rider in the race.
“After a long bend, two bikes were left lying on the side of the road, which didn’t look good,” the cyclist Roland Thalmann told Swiss broadcaster SRF. “When I looked back, I saw that two cyclists were quite low down.”
Another cyclist suggested that the accident and the area where it occurred should be a warning to race organizers.
“I hope that the final of today’s stage will be food for thought both for the cycling organizers and for ourselves as cyclists”, current world champion Remco Evenepoel said on Twitter after the accident, but before the news of Mäder’s death was made public. “It was not a good decision to let us finish this dangerous descent. As cyclists, we also have to think about the risks we take when going down a mountain.” Evenepoel is fourth in the Tour de Suisse.
Mäder’s career highlights were a fifth-place finish in the Vuelta a España and a stage win at the Giro d’Italia in 2021. This season he was fifth in the Paris-Nice race behind the two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar.
Serious injuries and fatalities to professional cyclists in accidents are not uncommon, although they mostly occur in collisions with automobiles during training. In racing, the danger is greatest downhill, where riders can reach speeds of 60 miles per hour.
Italian cyclist Fabio Casartelli, a teammate of Lance Armstrong, died after falling downhill in the 1995 Tour de France.