By Gregor Brown
Members of the cycling community in Belgium have paid tribute to Daan Myngheer, recognising his talent and fighting spirit.
The 22-year-old Belgian rider of team Roubaix Lille Métropole crashed in stage one of the Critérium International on Saturday, suffered a heart attack and died on Monday night.
Myngheer was born in Hooglede, near the Flemish city of Bruges, on April 13, 1993. Those close to him, remember him as a fighter. He fought to earn a contract and to stay a racer despite some health concerns.
In one of the first Belgian championships that he rode in 2008, he eagerly wanted to impress. With the federation holding them in Hooglede, his hometown, he had more reason to do so. He took home a silver medal, but two years later, then a junior, he won. In the 2011 world championships in Copenhagen, the year Mark Cavendish won his title, Myngheer attacked several times on the circuit and helped team-mate Martijn Degreve to a silver medal.
"He was good in everything, not just one area," Nico Dick, a freelance journalist for Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper, told Cycling Weekly. "He was a real fighter in races, he wouldn't give up."
Dick writes regularly for local newspapers and followed Myngheer's progress. He laughed thinking about the time that Myngheer did not bother returning his call.
"He was quiet. He wouldn't answer his phone sometimes. I don't ring people twice, I expect that people will call me back, and he didn't," Dick said. "I told him, if he wants to be in the newspaper next time, he has to answer his phone. But Daan, he didn't care."
Myngheer did care about results and becoming a professional, however. His junior title and ride in the Copenhagen worlds caught the eye of Michel Pollentier. He manages EFC-Etixx, feeder team to Etixx-QuickStep and one of the two top amateur teams in the cycling-mad country.
"I saw that he had this capacity, I thought, he could be a good professional, not a big winner, but a good top level pro in the WorldTour," Pollentier said. "But he had this problem. When he was with us, the same thing happened in the 2014 Kreiz Breizh tour. He pulled out with low blood pressure."
Doctors checked him and gave him the OK to continue. Myngheer, a fighter, wanted to race. "I think about it now, though, and it's too bad," added Pollentier. "I wish we could've done something. But if the doctors say he is OK, what do you do?"
Myngheer leaves behind his sister Fleur, mother Jannicke and father Ivo. Ivo helped organise the 2007 cyclo-cross worlds in Hooglede-Gits and formed part of Peter Sagan's dream team. When Tinkoff raced the northern classics, it relied on Ivo and others in the team to help with spare wheels in different cobble sectors.
"We spoke Friday at the E3 Harelbeke," Dick said. "He told me how he was proud of his son. This year, he began as a professional and started to earn good money. My only problem was that it was a French team, so he raced a French calendar and I did not see him anymore."
Myngheer did not die alone. He left for his final bicycle race with his girlfriend Emely. The two travelled to France's big island together for the Critérium International, the hard stage race that both Cadel Evans and Chris Froome won in recent years. She saw him off in Porto Vecchio for his last day of work, which was cut short.
He slipped off the back and soon fell. Medics helped him into an ambulance, but unlike in 2014's tour, this time it was too late. Emely joined him immediately at the hospital and called home. Soon Fleur, Jannicke and Ivo arrived to say their last good-byes to a brother, a son and above all, a fighter.