Looking back on 2016, it was one of the worst years for rider deaths and serious injuries in history. Everyone remembers Antoine Demoitie – the 25 year old up-and-coming Wanty rider who died on one of cycling’s biggest days at Gent-Wevelgem after a moto collision. In a similar fashion, Stig Broeckx of Lotto Soudal was induced into a coma for 6 months after a moto collision at the Baloise Belgium Tour – and is still at a state of minimal communication in hospital with little to no change of full recovery. Keagan Girdlestone of Dimension Data for Qhubeka crashed into the back of his team car on a descent at the Coppa della Pace Race, severing arteries in his neck – but since then he has made a great recovery, completing his first race just this weekend gone past. Staigiare Etienne Fabre of AG2R and Chambery Cycling died in a hiking accident late last year, while Colavita Neo-pro Ellen Watters was killed in a training accident after colliding with a truck. Iranian paracyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad died on the worlds biggest stage – the Olympics – on the very dangerous Rio course after a crash on a similar descent to the one which saw Annemiek Van Vleuten suffer a serious concussion (feared dead) and multiple other severe crashes in the Men’s Race. All of these accidents are tragic, and all of them got quite extensive media coverage; but one rider was forgotten amongst all of these.
Daan Myngheer spent 2015 at Verandas Willems Crelan before transferring over to the Roubaix Lille Métropole team for 2016. With promising performances in his junior years including being the Belgian Junior National Road Race Champion in 2011, 2nd at Omloop Juniors 2010, 8th at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne Juniors 2011 and 17th at Paris Roubaix Juniors 2011; the 22 year old looked like a solid pickup for the Lille team heading into the classics season of 2016. And sure enough, he proved himself in not only the classics but also in the GC races – 4th in the Youth Classification at Etoile de Besseges ahead of riders like Antony Turgis, Florian Senechal and Maxime Farazijn (who are all proving themselves in 2017) and helping team mate Rudy Barbier get a win at Paris-Troyes (who is now at AG2R) was just the start he needed in 2016 on a new team.
The Criterium International 2016. Sunday the 28th of March. Myngheer was getting his first taste of the big time at the biggest race of his career so far. The scenic backdrop of Porto-Vecchio, Corsica, makes the day seem as idyllic as one could hope. Brushing shoulders with riders like Thibaut Pinot, Thomas Voeckler and Jean-Christophe Peraud; Myngheer would have only had to have been in awe of finally making it here. It’s not the WorldTour, but it’s close enough to get a taste of the world stage. 25km into the relatively flat stage, Myngheer lost contact with the peloton quickly, feeling ill, before suffering a heart attack in the ambulance on the way to hospital. While the race was still on in Porto-Vecchio, Myngheer was in the fight for his life in the back of the ambulance, reaching the hospital in Ajaccio.
At 7:08pm, he was pronounced dead. Not much has been announced since them about the specific circumstances surrounding his death, nor should it be. Although reports have been released about Myngheer suffering a similar heart abnormality in a race in 2014, he had been fit all the way through his career. Riders from all over poured tributes towards Myngheer, the cycling community suffering two devastating losses in two days. The race continued on, Thibaut Pinot winning by 37 seconds over Pierre Latour.
Since then, Myngheer has been forgotten. He has faded away into the background of what was cycling’s darkest day in years with Demoitie’s death. It was cycling’s darkest weekend ever, but not many people remember the Sunday. No rider deserves to be forgotten, whether they past in tragic circumstances or retired after a valiant career. Patrick Lefevere summed up the day perfectly: “When winning the race is not important anymore. We lost [two] young people. That hurts.”
Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of Daan’s death. Another rider taken too young.
RIP Daan. 1993-2016.