French rider Mathieu Riebel has died following a crash with a vehicle during stage 9 of the Tour de Nouvelle Caladonie, the organisers have confirmed.
The 20-year-old Riebel was helping his Shell Pacific teammate Erwan Brenterch back to the peloton after he had suffered a mechanical problem when the crash occurred on the descent of the Col de la Pirogue. Brenterch broke his leg in the accident.
“Riders, teams, companions, participants in Au Tour d'Elles, journalists, everyone has learned with shock and great sadness of the tragic accident that occurred during the descent of the Col de la Pirogue, which cost Mathieu Riebel his life and seriously injured Erwan Brenterch, both of the Shell Pacific team,” a statement on the race’s Facebook page posted on Friday read.
“Mathieu was doing his best to bring his leader back into the peloton after mechanical trouble. It was on the high-speed descent of the pass that the collision with a vehicle occurred. The whole organization sends its deepest condolences to Mathieu's family.”
Reports in the French press have said that Riebel hit the windscreen of an ambulance that was coming in the other direction. Traffic was reportedly delayed but not completely blocked from the road on which the race was taking place. According to AFP and L'Equipe, Gérard Salaun, president of the regional cycling committee of New Caledonia, said that Riebel had taken a corner at around 80kph as he tried to bring Brenterch back.
The stage was immediately cancelled following the accident and organisers have offered psychological support for all in the race caravan. Saturday’s final stage has been neutralised and will be reduced to one ride up the Mont Dore, rather than the two originally planned.
The overall classification will be taken from the results of stage 8, making Leo Danes (Opt) the overall winner with Brenterch third in the standings. Stage 10 will be ridden as a tribute to Riebel and the riders from the women’s race, Au Tour d'Elles, will also take part.