On the 23rd of December, I drove from Stellenbosch to Cape Town International Airport to pick up my mom. I was listening to the radio, and I heard that 733 road deaths had happened since December 1st. That means 32 per day, an absolutely incredibly sad number, but it was only a number which rolled in my head for a bit, and quickly I was listening to the continuing news again; plus I was late as always and worried my Mom could be grumpy after spending another extra half hour in the airport.
When I got the call on January 3rd that Burry Stander had passed away, this was not just rolling in my head, it felt like a explosion which spread into my head and from there into every smallest part of my body. It was so surreal! It was just a totally different experience, suddenly there was a face behind all those deaths. The person we all had so much left for.
We can ask us a hundred times why or if he would have left the bike shop five seconds later or earlier, Burry probably would be still with us. It was simply the wrong time at the wrong spot. Have we ever thought how many times we have been lucky and we even did not even know it? Not being at the wrong time at the wrong spot, just because we probably had to stop at a traffic light and we then missed the deathly car...
I will always remember Burry as a family man, a fighter, very fair, talented, mature, very down to earth and peaceful, proud South African.
Burry could not even kill a fly. Over all the years, I have never seen him angry once, even though he would have had hundreds of reasons for it. He did argue with people with whom he was very close, but he would never do so with others like, for example, the receptionists for a better hotel room. Most of the time, Burry accepted what was or often asked me to sort it out.
In another example, when we travelled to Canada. Burry as usual had the longest trip, flying first to Europe then on another long flight to North America. He arrived two hours ahead of me. Luckily, he decided to get our rental car, making himself busy. Once I cleared customs, he had already been waiting for me in the rental for a long time, but we still had to wait for Jaroslav Kulhavy, who was on a delayed Frankfurt flight. I got pretty impatient since we still had to drive 3.5 hours to Mont-St.-Anne, but Burry did not care and was fine with the situation.
Burry was a family man and a great husband. He loved to be around his family and to have his family around him. I think that he could tank so much energy from the family and he gave a lot back, too. I often thought he is doing too much in addition to cycling: bike shops, importing products, big house, dogs, cars and whatever else he had on his plate, but to me it seemed like the whole family was pulling on the same string, hand in hand: a Stander family powerhouse.
After Burry's death, it was hard for me to get back to training and normal life again and to set goals. But I had to remember Burry and that I probably have the smallest problem in the world. Our pain is so secondary compared to Burry, who lost his one and only loved life!
By the way, there are some songs which will always remind me of Burry and the Cape Epic: Black Eyed Peas/Imma Be, Kid Rock/Born Free, Snoop Dogg & T-Pain/Boom. For the last three years, we always decided on our Cape Epic song. It was not planed beforehand, just spontaneously by listening to the iPod we suddenly decided, that's the one! We always played the song very loud before we left for the start.
Burry was just such a good guy, and now I really can't wait to race my heart out for Burry, Cherise, his family, friends and fans.
[Editor's Note: Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser have won the Cape Epic Mountain Bike Stage Race together. They were also teammates together on the Specialized Racing team. In 2013, Sauser will partner with another teammate, Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, to race the Cape Epic in memory of Stander.]
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