Day of Tragedy on the Tour
Patrick D. Walters
PWALTERS at delphi.com
Wed Jul 19 00:22:31 PDT 1995
1 18-JUL-1995 16:22 Day of tragedy on the Tour
CAUTERETS, France, July 18 (UPI) -- On a day overshadowed by the tragic
death of Italian rider Fabio Casartelli, Richard Virenque of France won the
15th stage of the Tour de France Tuesday, a 128.75-mile haul through the
Pyrenees from St. Girons to Cauterets.
Spaniard Miguel Indurain retained the race leader's yellow jersey as he
countered every attack by his closest rivals to finish sixth.
But the death of Olympic road race champion Casartelli cast a giant shadow
over the event.
The 25-year-old from Como was with a group of riders who fell on the
descent from the Col de Portet d'Aspet in the Pyrenees. He was airlifted by
helicopter but was pronounced dead about 30 minutes after arriving at Tardes
He suffered "serious facial and skull injuries and went into a deep and
immediate coma," said Tour doctor Gerard Porte.
It is the first rider fatality on the Tour since Tommy Simpson of Britain
collapsed with heat exhaustion in 1967. The last rider to die as a result of
an accident was Spaniard Francesco Cepeda, who plunged down a ravine on the
Col du Galabier in the Alps in 1935.
Two other riders involved in Tuesday's incident, German Dirk Baldinger and
Frenchman Dante Rezze, were taken to hospital in Saint- Gaudens. Porte said
Rezze injured his left thigh, while Baldinger suffered mulitiple injuries.
Italian Giancarlo Perini was also involved, but not seriously hurt.
The accident happened as the riders sped down a steep descent on the Portet
d'Aspet mountain pass, about 20 miles after the start of the 128- mile stage
from Saint Girons to Cauterets.
"The road was narrow but the speed of the riders was not that high and
there must have been some mistake or maybe a puncture," said race director
"Casartelli must have hit one of those concrete blocks on the side of the
road. I gather he was not wearing a helmet. We are in a state of shock.
"He would have been celebrated in his home village as a hero in a few days
for finsishing the event. It's awful.
"We will have to talk with the riders to find out exactly what happened.
It's terrible news for Italian cycling and for the Tour de France," he added.
Casartelli, who turned 25 Sunday, was unconcious on the road after the
accident. "His heart stopped three times in the helicopter but it was a brain
trauma that caused the death," said a hospital spokesman. "He died 30 minutes
after reaching hospital."
Casartelli, a member of the U.S. Motorola team, turned professional in
1993, a year after winning the Olympic road race title in Barcelona.
In his first pro season he won a stage in the Settimana Verfnasca and had
three second-place finishes in stages of the Tour of Switzerland. He retired
during his first Tour de France last year.
Ranked world number 470, he leaves a wife and three-month-old son.
Danish rider Bjarne Riis said: "I was told about the tragedy two minutes
after the end of the stage. It's so sad, I knew him well, I can't speak."
Stage winner Virenque, said: "It's wrecked the day. I dedicate my victory
to his whole family."
Virenque's win was based on a long solo ride. Italy's Claudio Chiappucci
was second ahead of Colombian Hernan Buenahora and Fernando Escartin of Spain.
Virenque, the King of the Mountains leader, broke clear on the Col de
Peyresourde, the third of the day's six mountain passes. His lead of five
minutes was whittled down to 50 seconds at one stage, but he went away again
on the final climb to Cauterets to come home by one minute 17 seconds.
Wednesday's 16th stage is 147.27 miles from Tarbes to Pau and contains two
first category climbs.
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