South African cycling legend dies

Car accident claims life of '79 Giro stage winner

The man claimed to be South Africa's greatest-ever cyclist, Alan van Heerden, has died following a motor accident near Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday afternoon.

Whilst full details of the accident are still unknown, it appeared he was travelling in the left lane and hit a concrete barrier. He was thrown from the vehicle and sustained damage to an artery in his shoulder, a broken pelvis, severe head injuries and brain trauma.

According to correspondence from van Heerden's sister, despite all efforts to stem the bleeding, particularly on the brain, he died at 3.10pm on Tuesday, 15 December.

The 56-year-old was the first rider from his country to win a stage in a grand tour, taking stage seven of the 1979 Giro d'Italia. Tour de France stage winner Robbie Hunter has labelled van Heerden the best rider his nation has ever produced.

Alan van Heerden had recently undergone bypass surgery following complications related to injuries sustained during his career as a professional. He rode for the Peugeot-Esso-Michelin squad during his time as a professional in Europe.

The memorial service for van Heerden will be held at 10:00am on Saturday, December 19, at Fourways Memorial Park, with an invitation open to the general public.

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