Funeral plans for Ryan Cox have been made, while the South African cycling community mourns and more details concerning his final hours have been made public. Cox passed away Wednesday after the main artery in his left leg burst. The 28 year-old rider had undergone an operation in France on July 4 to treat a blood flow problem in his leg.
The funeral is planned for the afternoon of Tuesday, August 7, in his hometown of Kempton Park. The funeral will be preceded by a memorial ride, open to all. The ride will pass by Cox's house on its way to the church.
Team Barloworld team manager Claudio Corti was shocked by the news. "Ryan was an extremely talented rider who excelled in the international cycling arena," he said. "He has represented his country with great skill and pride, and has always been looked upon as a great ambassador for South African cycling.
"On behalf of Team Barloworld, our deepest condolences are extended to the Cox family."
Clint Curtis, Cox's junior coach and a good friend of the late cyclist, said that Cox collapsed at home Monday, where his brother found him and rushed him to the hospital. He underwent emergency surgery, receiving several units of blood, but his kidneys and other organs were failing. He died Wednesday morning.
Cox had had problems with his leg for some time, sometimes losing feeling in the leg after riding. "Ryan then went to see one of the leading doctors in France. It was found that the artery had, as a consequence of all the cycling, become knotted as sometimes happens to a garden hose, Curtis told news24.com. "It often happens to cyclists because they spend so many hours on the bicycles, with their legs bent while pedalling. The doctor in France has performed surgery of this type on about 600 cyclists, among them Stuart O'Grady, who has worn the yellow jersey in the Tour de France."
Financial worries may have played a role in the subsequent problems. "Because cyclists often do not have a medical fund, Ryan was concerned about the costs of the operation," Curtis continued. "Fortunately his teammate Robert Hunter offered to lend him the money to pay for surgery. I think the problems arose because Ryan discharged himself from hospital because he was worried about the costs. One has to remain very still after such an operation. Ryan then flew back to South Africa and was probably too active. He worked in his garden a lot."
Cox and the team had some misunderstandings earlier this summer about his health problems and the best treatment, specifically when the operation should take place. On his web site, ryancox.co.au (which has temporarily been removed from the internet), Cox wrote, "I really need the team to tell me my next step. Do I carry on racing, like this? Or do I do the operation. It's just all up in the air at the moment and not knowing my next step is quite frustrating. I hope I know soon as carrying on like this is just no good. I need a plan of action."
In response, the team noted that the rider and the team management had agreed that he would ride the two Iberian races and then, during the ensuing race break, undergo the surgery, if needed. "I think the things Cox has written on his website are wrong and childish because he agreed his race programme with us," team manager Claudio Corti said. "Rather than create further problems, he should try and find out if an operation will effectively help him in the long-term. In recent races, Cox has shown some good form despite complaining about pain in his left leg."
To view a tribute page to Ryan Cox, click here.