Robert Sassone, the former Cofidis rider who won the Madison at the 2001 Track World Championships, is dead at the age of 37.
Sassone, who had reportedly battled cancer for several years, took his own life, according to sources in Noumea, capital of New Caledonia, the French Overseas Territory in the south Pacific Ocean.
“We’re very affected by his death,” New Caledonia cycling chief Gerard Salaun told local radio staion RRB.
“I knew that he was sick, but alas that it should lead to this…It’s a real pity, it’s a great champion who leaves us. A guy who pedalled like no one.”
Sassone rode for Cofidis between 2000 and 2003 and was one of five riders on the team to receive suspended sentences in 2007 for doping offences, along with Daniel Majewski, Marek Rutiewicz, Philippe Gaumont and Medéric Clain, as well as soigneur Bogdan Madejak and trainer Oleg Kozlitine, at the same inquiry that led to David Millar’s two-year drug ban.
The French rider, who won World Championships gold with Jérôme Neuville in 2001, also won a silver medal in the scratch race at the 2003 World Championships in Stuttgart and completed the 2002 Vuelta a España, finishing 129th of 132, nine hours and 15 minutes down on overall winner Aitor Gonzalez.
Nico Mattan, Sassone’s teammate at Cofidis, posted a photo of Sassone on Twitter, writing “Another ex-teammate from Cofidis has left us.”
Sassone is the fourth former Cofidis rider to pass away in recent years. Frank Vandenbroucke died from a pulmonary embolism in 2009 at the age of 34, while Philippe Gaumont – who turned whistleblower over systemic doping at the French outfit – died aged 40 following a heart attack in 2013.