Michael Hepburn on helping stricken rival: ‘I’d like to think my mates would do the same for me’

Hepburn stopped to help his fallen compatriot and Friend Zak Dempster at the 2019 Three Days of De Panne

Michael Hepburn (Mitchelton-Scott), after coming to the rescue of Zak Dempster (Israel Cycling Academy), would like to think that other riders would stop and help him if he needed it following a crash.

On Wednesday in the Three days of De Panne, he stopped to help a fellow Australian  and friend who was on the ground after a crash. An unusual act when you see riders normally racing to return to the group after a pile up.

“No, I’m not going to stop every crash,” Hepburn told Cycling Weekly. “I broke my front wheel actually, so I had to stop anyway and wait for a spare bike and then when I went by I saw one of my good mates Zak on the ground and he didn’t look too good so I thought about giving him helping had, nothing major.

“We’ve known each other for a while and he’s joked that normally we are carrying each other home from the pub, not off the ground. I didn’t think too much about it, I was there and my race was over because of my wheel and I’m glad that he’s all right.”

The incident occurred 10km to race in the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne won by Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma). The footage showed Hepburn lifting bikes off of Dempster and checking on him.

“Some guys look out for each other, you obviously have your mates out in the peloton. I’d like to think my mates would do the same for me,” Hepburn added.

“But everyone is so focused on the results and there’s a lot of pressure these days. Some guys are just a bit too focused on the results to care for one another.”

Dempster lined up for the E3 BinckBank Classic this morning “a little sore” but happy that nothing was broken in the crash.

“Normally if you are in a crash and stuck there anyway, you try to sort someone out because it’s pretty awkward to be under a pile of bikes or you don’t know if you’re hurt or what. But if you are there and free…” Dempster said.

“Many times you are in a rush to get back to the race. And if the doctors are there or someone’s helping, then sometimes it’s not necessary, but in that situation I was having a moment of difficulty and he really helped me out. I think he saw me under there, I was winded and bruised, and I just couldn’t get out from under my bike. He just came and sorted me out.”

They come from different parts of Australian, nearly 2000 kilometres away from one another, but have been close since they’ve been racing in Europe.

“We’ve lived in the same building and we’ve actually lived together for a few months, and he’s one of my best mates. We know each other well,” Dempster continued.

“It’s been nice, we’ve probably been in similar states in bachelor parties over the years and we’re used to picking each other up. We’ve been through a lot together, we’ve both came to Europe together as kids basically. You see each other in your best and your worst.”

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