20-year-old Belgian rider dies during first post-coronavirus race

Niels de Vriendt is said to have suffered heart failure during the practice race

A 20-year-old Belgian rider has died after falling during a practice race.

Niels de Vriendt, who rode for VDM-Trawobo, was racing in Wortegem-Petegem on Saturday July 4, located in East Flanders, when he reportedly suffered heart failure.

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Medical staff spent nearly an hour trying to resuscitate De Vriendt but to no avail.

De Vriendt fell with 13km remaining in the race, which was subsequently cancelled, with the like of EF Pro Cycling’s Sep Vanmarcke and Alpecin-Fenix’s Belgian road race champion Tim Merlier amongst the 150 riders who lined up alongside the young Belgian at the start.

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The race had been organised by Merlier’s mother, at the request of the rider after Cycling Flanders made an appeal for practice races to be organised for July.

VDM-Trabowo released a statement, which read: VDM-Trabowo Cycling Team is deeply mourned and hard hit by the death of our promising rider Niels De Vriendt. The first race was fatal in Wortegem-Petegem due to heart failure.

“The emergency services did everything to save Niels. The entire VDM family wishes strength to the affected family, the riders and the many friends of Niels. Rest in peace Niels. We will miss you.”

The mayor of Wortegem-Petegem, Luc Vander Meeren, said there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding De Vriendt’s death.

“I have heard from local riders that Niels just fell. There was no contact with another rider, no third party was involved,” Vander Meeren told television network VTM. “I’m afraid we’ll never find out what caused it. Unfortunately for the parents, that remains a mystery forever.”

Another Belgian race, the Grand Prix Vermac, will be the first professional post-coronavirus race, taking place on Sunday July 5, where a minute’s silence will be held for Niels de Vriendt.

Our thoughts are with Niels de Vriendt’s family, friends and team-mates at this time