If you’ve been reading this site for awhile, you probably know I’ve long been a fan of women’s bike racing.
I grew up watching the best male riders of the late 70s and 80s. Hinault. LeMond. Phinney. Grewal. The Stetina brothers.
But I also had the privilege of watching Connie Carpenter, Rebecca Twigg, Maria Canins and Jeannie Longo in their prime.
And while the men never failed to put on a good show, the women were often the more exciting racers; anyone who came late to watch the men often missed out on the best racing of the day.
Yet somehow, women’s racing fell out of favor, as the world focused on a young cancer survivor from Texas who would ultimately break our hearts. And forget all about the women.
The new generation of women’s riders has proven themselves every bit the match of those who came before, with road racing stars like Marianne Vos, Emma Johansson and Ellen Van Dijk, and Americans Evelyn Stevens and Carmen Smalls.
Not to mention cyclocross racers like Vos and Katie Compton.
If those names mean nothing to you, look them up. Because they, and many others not named here, represent some of the best bike racers anywhere, male or female.
And then there was rising star Amy Dombroski.
I say was, because she lost her life today while riding in Belgium.
The 26-year old rider, with three under-23 titles under her belt, was on a training ride, motorpacing behind a scooter, when she was hit by a truck. No word on how the collision occurred, other than the driver was sober and the motorcyclist pacing her was uninjured.
Unlike some of the others, I never had the privilege of watching her ride. Yet frequently encountered stories of her exploits and personality, rapidly rising through the ranks to become one of the world’s best and most popular riders.
Today, her career ended.
Along with her life.
Her Twitter account expresses the mundane life of a young woman far from home; shout-outs to friends and comments about new gear. And ends with simple tweet about trying oysters for the first time, with no hint it would be her last.
Meanwhile, her death causes Tim Blumenthal, President of People for Bikes, to examine the gorilla in the room. I’ve long felt they could, and should, do more to address the dangers riders face on the roads; on the other hand, they probably think I should do less.
The death of someone famous should not cause us more grief than that of anyone else; too many people die on our streets, regardless of their choice in transportation or recreation.
But of course it does.
We feel like we knew her in some way, and feel vicariously the pain of those who did. And we feel the loss of someone who does — did — what we do, with a kinship only someone who rides a bike can truly understand.
Tonight hearts around the world are broken.
We’ve had a death in the family.
And we are sad, in ways we may not even understand.
My prayers for Amy Dombroski and her family.
Thanks to Jon Riddle and JG for the heads up.