Deeply shaken by the fatal fall of Swiss professional cyclist Gino Mäder, his colleagues wept to comfort each other. With a minute’s silence, the riders of the Tour de Suisse commemorated the 26-year-old, who succumbed to his serious injuries from the previous day shortly before the start of the sixth stage. The news of Mäder’s death shocked his Bahrain-Victorious teammates and the cycling world. Mäder fell into a ravine at high speed during the fifth stage on Thursday and had to be resuscitated.
“We are devastated by the loss of our exceptional driver, Gino Mäder. His talent, dedication and enthusiasm were an inspiration to all of us,” said team manager Milan Erzen. Mäder died of his serious injuries at 11:30 a.m. on Friday morning. “Our entire team is devastated by this tragic accident and our thoughts and prayers go out to Gino’s family and loved ones at this incredibly difficult time,” Bahrain-Victorious said.
The team subsequently withdrew from the Tour de Suisse. “We are all shocked. No one is able to get on a bike,” said sports director Enrico Poitschke of BILD. “He was not only an extremely talented driver, but also a great person off the bike,” said team manager Erzen about Mäder.
The sixth stage of the Tour de Suisse did not take place as planned on Friday. Instead, the drivers completed the last 30 kilometers to their destination in Oberwil-Lieli in the afternoon as a funeral journey. That was also the wish of the family, it said.
A large billboard said “Gino, we ride for you” and drivers from different teams hugged each other. In contrast to the usual atmosphere at bike races, there was mostly silence on the side of the road during the commemoration ride. Some passers-by applauded. The passenger of an escort motorcycle held up a sign that read “Gino”.
Mäder fell on Thursday on the descent from the Albula Pass to the destination of La Punt, fell into a ravine and was seriously injured. According to a report, Mäder was lying motionless in the water when the rescue workers arrived. He then had to be revived and flown to a clinic in Chur.
Numerous professional cyclists reacted stunned to the news. “I can’t believe what I’m reading here. What a sad, sad day,” British pro Geraint Thomas wrote on Twitter. The cycling superstars Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia and the Belgian Wout van Aert also expressed their condolences on social networks.
Mäder was considered a climbing specialist. Among his greatest successes were stage wins at the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de Suisse 2021. At the Tour of Switzerland, the preparatory race for the Tour de France, the American Magnus Sheffield also fell on Thursday and was also taken to the hospital. He suffered a concussion and bruises.
According to information from Swiss television, the public prosecutor’s office and the Graubünden cantonal police are also investigating the causes of Mäder’s fall. In cycling, serious injuries occur time and again as a result of falls. Several professionals have died in accidents. In 2016, for example, the Belgian professional Antoine Demoitié died as a result of a collision with an escort motorcycle, and in 2019 the Belgian professional cyclist Bjorg Lambrecht did not survive a fall on the Tour of Poland.
Mäder’s death should therefore open up a debate about the safety of professional cyclists again. “Such a fall can happen, but you provoke it with such a long and dangerous descent just before the finish line,” criticized ex-pro Tony Martin in BILD.
Ralph Denk, team boss of the top German team Bora-hansgrohe, told the newspaper: “The accident has nothing to do with the fact that the finish came shortly after. The pass was the first of the day. The riders at the back often take more risks than those racing for victory. And for Gino it was no longer about anything, neither in the daily nor in the overall ranking. That makes it even more tragic.”
World Champion Remco Evenepoel from Belgium was among the drivers who criticized the organizers because of the route. It wasn’t a smart idea to place the finish of such a stage after a descent, said the 23-year-old, according to the Swiss newspaper “Blick”. “But you obviously still need more spectacle. Something just has to happen for you to react,” said Evenepoel.