Today is Kristof Goddaert’s funeral and as you read this Kristof’s friends, family and teammates will be paying their final respects to a dear friend of mine, who at just 27, tragically died last week while training.
I’ve never had to go to a funeral in my life. I don’t know what could or can be said at this moment because I’ve never lost anyone close to me before but I want to be there to say goodbye. This whole last week still doesn’t feel real, though, and part of me still holds out hope that I’m going to turn up at Het Volk this weekend and he’s going to be there, in my room, just as he has been every time we’ve been at races together.
The last time I saw Kristof was at the Tour of Qatar. We’d finished the race and gone out for a dinner with the team. We’d even managed to squeeze in a couple of drinks together – a brief respite before it was back to work. Then at the Tour of Oman, a race Kristof skipped, I heard the news about his accident.
I was in my room and I was suddenly being bombarded with text messages asking me if knew about his accident. I didn’t know what was going on, I’d not heard or read anything about it but straight away I tried to ring him. There was no answer. So I tried to text him. No reply either. I saw that he’d not been online for a number of hours and then I remember racing down the hall and asking another rider if knew what was going on. No one knew, not until our sports director came in and broke the news. I remember sitting there listening, full of fear and sadness, and just hoping he’d text back. That his name would flash up on my phone and he’d be there to say he was okay and that the news had been wrong.
Before I came to the IAM team I didn’t really know Kristof. I knew a few things, like how energetic he was in the peloton and how much he liked to joke around with his teammates but that was about it. I think that’s how a lot of guys knew him and he’d be a rider who would always dive into corners, he’d always race full gas but he was also a great worker.
We started to get to know each other last year, when we roomed together at the Tour of Qatar. Both on a new team, we watched out for each other and instantly got on well together. He became to be one of my true mates and we’d start talking and hanging out away from races as well. But I think everyone was pretty close with him at IAM, and that was just down to his personality. He had this way of cheering you up even if you were in a bad mood or feeling down. Whether it was his jokes around the dinner table or his dedication to training hard, he was just always full of energy, always happy and always willing to help a teammate.
To race with he was excellent too. He’d be there to protect me in the classics, keep me safe, keep me out of the wind and he was always riding for the good of the team. I can remember it fondly now but he was always full gas, he could never go easy. He was a born racer.
The days since his death have been rough for everyone who knew him, and my thoughts and true felt condolences go out to his closest friends and family. Today is all about saying goodbye, an opportunity we never really had. I’m sure there will be a huge amount of support today, not just from our team but a number of squads and riders. The Belgian cycling community will come together and pay their respects.
And I know it might sound weird, but in some way I still think Kristof will be with us in the peloton. I didn’t believe in any of that before but I have that feeling that he’s still going to be around, on the front, diving into those corners and joking in the pack. We won't forget you.
Rest in peace, Kristof.