Swiss cyclist Gino Mäder has died after crashing and falling down a ravine during a descent at the Tour de Suisse, according to his team Bahrain-Victorious.
The 26-year-old Mäder crashed on Thursday on a fast downhill road approaching the end of the mountainous fifth stage into La Punt.
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“Gino lost his battle to recover from the severe injuries he sustained,” the team said in a statement on Friday.
“Despite the best efforts of the phenomenal staff at Chur hospital, Gino couldn’t make it through this, his final and biggest challenge, and at 11:30 a.m. we said goodbye to one of the shining lights of our team.”
Medical staff who reached Mäder found him motionless in water. They performed CPR before he was airlifted to the hospital.
“Our entire team is devastated by this tragic accident, and our thoughts and prayers are with Gino’s family and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time,” Bahrain-Victorious said.
The Tour de Suisse is a preparation race before next month’s Tour de France.
Mäder’s death was announced about 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the sixth stage in the eight-day race. The start was delayed and riders gathered in a silent tribute.
The route for Thursday’s stage was later criticised by world champion Remco Evenepoel, who finished 10th and is fourth in the overall standings.
“While a summit finish would have been perfectly possible, it wasn’t a good decision to let us finish down this dangerous descent. As riders, we should also think about the risks we take going down a mountain,” the Belgian cyclist said on his Twitter account.
American rider Magnus Sheffield also fell on the same descent from Albula, during the most difficult stage of the race with multiple climbs.
The Ineos-Grenadiers rider was hospitalised with “bruises and concussion,” organisers said.
Mäder was one of Switzerland’s best young riders. He won a stage at the 2021 Giro d’Italia and placed fifth overall in the Spanish Vuelta that year. He also was fifth in the Paris-Nice stage race in March.
“We are heartbroken,” Tour de Suisse organisers said in a statement. “Gino, you’ve been an excellent rider but even more a wonderful person. Always smiling and making people happy around you.”
Mäder was asked by a reporter on Sunday at the race finish what would make him happy at the end of the week-long race.
“If I’m still healthy and I enjoy my home race, maybe have some success with the team,” Mäder had said.
Team manager Milan Erzen praised the rider, saying his “talent, dedication, and enthusiasm were an inspiration to us all.”
“Not only was he an extremely talented cyclist,” Erzen said, “but a great person off the bike.”