The cycling world is in shock over the death of Isaac Gálvez, who suffered a fatal accident on Saturday night at the Gent Six Day. The track world champion and road cyclist for Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears collided with Dimitri De Fauw and fell onto the rail at the top of the track. He fell unconscious immediately and died on the way to the Gent University Clinic hospital. Preliminary reports indicate the cause of death was an internal hemmorhage, but the full story will not be available until the autopsy is complete. The remainder of the event was cancelled by the organiser.
"A feeling of sorrow and consternation reigns," Patrick Sercu, director of competition, told Sporza from the 'Kuipke' track on Sunday. "On the road, there are 20 teams who each stay in their hotel - but on the track, the riders are one team, there are always together. There is a great atmosphere with healthy rivalry. Every one has to get through this in their own way.
"This is a crash that can happen in every competition. In 45 years, I've never experienced a deadly accident. This is an absolute low in my career. I don't care about the results [of the six-day] now."
Six Day organiser Rob Discart said, "This is a disaster, a drama. Words are not enough to express what we feel, and what all persons present feel. The cancellation was the least we could do. We don't think about if the next edition (of the Six Day) is in danger. Our thoughts are now with the rider and his family and friends."
One of the leaders of the competition at the time of the accident, Iljo Keisse, also expressed deep sorrow. "I'm glad I didn't see it myself," he said. "When we heard of the news, all riders stayed together for another two hours in a hotel room. We talked and supported one another, but nothing will bring Isaac back.
"Track racing is dangerous; we're not protected like in motorcross. But everybody knows that crashes are part of the game. I don't give a damn about the results. A beautiful week turned into a real nightmare."
Track legend Stan Tourné was a spectator during the event in Gent, and saw the crash happen right in front of him. "I protected my daughter to avoid him as he was flying over the balustrade. De Fauw and Gálvez touched each other with the shoulders and Gálvez was catapulted to the outside while De Fauw crashed on the inside," the Belgian explained. "Gálvez ended up in the barriers of the track which are there to prevent the riders from hitting the stands; Gálvez took the impact of the collision with the metal barriers on his chest," Tourné added.
The two times winner in Gent was critical about what happened after the crash. "There was help, but a bit helpless I would say. At first, most people were concerned about De Fauw but I saw that Gálvez must have received an enormously big impact. I shouted from the stands to bring help to Isaac Gálvez as I saw he was suffocating, he couldn’t get air," Tourné said. He said he didn’t want to be overly critical, but admitted, "The help - in my opinion - was not sufficient; but I don’t know if more help was possible. I always heard that the first minutes after a crash are very important, and I must say that not much aid was offered during those first minutes."
Team Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears director Eusebio Unzúe said, "I was still talking to him two days ago, studying next season's calendar. He was going to compete in the track world's in Palma de Mallorca, so we discussed which preparation would be best, which races would be most suited... and now this," he told AS.com, still in shock.
Unzúe also said that Gálvez' partner in the six-day, Juan Llaneras, was "taking care of all the formalities. José Miguel [Echávarri, the team's General Manager - ed.] talked to him. He's devastated." Llaneras was Galvez' racing partner since 1999. Unzúe, Gálvez sister Débora and other family members will join Llaneras in Belgium on Sunday evening to make arrangements to transport the body of Isaac Gálvez back to Spain on Tuesday, according to the latest reports.
Gálvez was not just a champion on the track, but he was also a strong sprinter on the road. In his professional career of just six seasons, he earned twelve victories, most recently in the final stage of the Four days of Dunkirk in May. But the Spaniard felt that his efforts were overlooked by the Spanish press because they focused only on Oscar Freire. Gálvez was determined to show his worth, and was disappointed with his results during this year's Tour de France, where he finished 2nd on stage four and 6th on stages one and nine, claiming he only would be happy with a win.
(See our earlier report for Gálvez' more details on his career highlights.)