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Sad day in Qatar with death of young Belgian rider

5. February 2009

Doha, Qatar

The Tour of Qatar's Stage 5 was shortened and neutralized as a memorial to Frederiek Nolf a 21 year old Belgian cyclist on Topsport Vlaanderen. 

Nolf, who was just days away from his 22nd birthday, died in his sleep Wednesday night. 

BMC's Directeur Sportif John Lelangue, who is also Belgian, had this to say about Nolf:

"This is very sad news for the cycling world, but more particularly for his team, family, girlfriend and friends.  Frederiek was a young talented boy who had a stock-pile of good results at races like the U23 Paris-Roubaix two years ago.  He was happy with his job, doing what he loved, and since he specialized in Classics racing he was looking forward to the next few weeks when his team would be racing the cobbles in the northern classics.  But sadly, he won't be there.  All we can do is pray for him and his family."

Lelangue's comments about neutralizing the stage:

"There was nothing else to do but neutralize the race.  No one had a mind for racing today.  For those of us who knew him as well as those riders who may not have known Frederiek personally but feel kinship for all cyclists, it was important to show this respect and also to reflect on our own lives.  We are all here in Qatar doing the job we love and are passionate about.  And if we think about the problems we face daily, whether it is a ill-timed flat tire or a split in the peloton that is missed, all these problems seem so little and insignificant when faced with these real life tragedies.  Though we know things like this can happen, we are never prepared for such things, and so it was good to have a day's commemoration to his life and career."

Lelangue's comments about moving on:

"We will have a meeting with all the teams and riders tonight to discuss the situation and the emotions everyone feels.  But he was here to compete because that is what he loved to do.  And even if it is hard, we will need to turn the page and go on with the race.  Obviously this Tour of Qatar will never be the same, but we are all professionals, and it will be another sort of tribute to Frederiek if we move on and do the job that we all love so much.  Today was a very sad day for cycling but tomorrow we will have to race like it is another day.  Many of these boys are racing because cycling is therapeutic, so once they are on their bikes again, it will become easier for everyone."