20-year-old rider Mathieu Riebel killed in head-on collision with ambulance during race

Promising young rider was reportedly travelling at 80kmh at time of crash

(Image credit: Instagram)

A promising young French rider has died after a high-speed collision with an ambulance during a race in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia.

20-year-old Mathieu Riebel died while descending the Col de la Pirogue on stage nine of the Tour Air France de Nouvelle-Caledonie, reportedly crashing into an oncoming ambulance while trying to regain contact with the peloton alongside Shell Pacific team leader Erwan Brenterch.

Brenterch, who also suffered a broken leg in the crash, had suffered a mechanical problem, and the two riders were apparently descending at around 80kmh when the crash occurred.

Gérard Salaun, president of the regional cycling committee of New Caledonia, told L'Equipe that the two riders had crashed into an ambulance travelling in the opposite direction, with traffic along the route of the race being stopped as the riders passed by rather than the roads being completely closed.

The stage was immediately cancelled as a result of the tragic crash, with the final stage on Saturday being run as a procession over half distance, with the female peloton of the concurrently-run Au Tour d'Elles joining the male riders in memory of Riebel.

A promising track cyclist, as a Riebel had been junior national champion in the madison in 2014, and had enjoyed a steady stream of results on the road in the last few years that had seen him recruited to a top-level French amateur team for the 2018 season.

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Henry Robertshaw began his time at Cycling Weekly working with the tech team, writing reviews, buying guides and appearing in videos advising on how to dress for the seasons. He later moved over to the news team, where his work focused on the professional peloton as well as legislation and provision for cycling. He's since moved his career in a new direction, with a role at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.