An emotional Cherise Stander, South African marathon mountain bike champion, said on the day her husband died he went out later than usual for his training ride. "I woke up tired and we decided to go ride a bit later, it ended up being so hot we could only train quite late in the afternoon."
"Burry phoned me when he was halfway in Port Edward. He was excited to get back home soon because he had a tailwind coming back. We ended our conversation confirming our love for each other." Approximately an hour later, Stander was dead.
The accident happened a few hundred meters from the Concept Cyclery Shop in Shelley Beach where his father, Charles, was working. He was killed instantly. He suffered serious head trauma and there are indications that his neck might have been broken on impact.
Stander finished the 2012 season as the second best cross country rider in the world. He had had a brilliant season winning the Cape Epic with Christoph Sauser for the second consecutive year, also winning the World Cup race in Windham, New York and finishing second overall in the World Cup series. He was fifth at the Olympic Games in London, a mere 30 seconds behind Jaroslav Kulhavy, the eventual winner.
Cherise Stander said that she does not bear a grudge towards the driver. "Burry was always paranoid about abiding the traffic rules, he always keeps everyone in line on group training rides. Burry was always the one who constantly emphasized that we had to be careful and alert. There were quite a few times when Burry would get cross with me when he thought I was taking unnecessary risks."
"Once at Oribi Gorge when I was really flying on a downhill section, Burry reprimanded me saying that I am foolish and that I should always realize that at any moment a motor vehicle could appear in front of you and I should remember that." Cherise Stander emphasized that she knows nothing can bring Burry back but indicated that she hopes an example is made rather. "It is time that people realize that there will be serious consequences if you take another person’s life. It would only have taken two second for the driver to stop and that is what cost Burry his life," she said.
"I fully support the idea of the Burry Stander Foundation to drive a road safety campaign for cyclists. That is what Burry would have wanted, to bring about real change."
When asked how she would remember her husband, Cherise Stander had no hesitation in answering that Burry was the ultimate family man.
"For him his family always came first. That is the reason why he started the three Concept Cyclery Shops in KwaZulu-Natal. His idea was that it should be developed into a full on family business creating job opportunities for everyone long after his own cycling career come to an end.
"Cycling was Burry's other big love. He lived to cycle. On more than one occasion he said to me that he does not think people realize that cycling is not a job for him it was what he loved."
With regards to her own career, Cherise admits she hasn't given it much thought but the passion Burry had for the sport rubbed off on her. "He would not have wanted me to stop because of what happened, he was just as committed to my career as he was to his own and we both love this sport." Cherise added that she won't be making any rash decisions and needs time to process everything that happened.
The Stander family will attend a memorial ride tomorrow on the South Coast that will finish at the spot where Burry Stander was so tragically killed. Fikile Mbalula, South Africa's minister of sport and recreation is expected to make an appearance.
Following the ride one of Stander's bicycles will be chained on the scene.
The family has expressed its gratitude for the overwhelming support. Cherise commented that she reads every message herself and that the incredible support and love they see everyone had for Burry is helping each of them deal with things in their own way. The public can send post cards and letters tributes to Burry to PO Box 981 Umtentweni 4235.
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