Respect: if you want to get it, you have to give it.
I had two posts planned for today, both with entirely different tones as to the one I am about to write. I need to write this post not only to convey my respect and admiration for one of South Africa’s greatest athletes but also to express my outrage and hurt about the lack of safe cycling routes in SA. Burry Stander, a shining star in the national as well as international mountain biking cycling constellation, was killed yesterday afternoon by a taxi after a training cycle on the South Coast, he died instantly.
I did not know Burry Stander personally but I have been greatly touched by this enormous tragedy and I am sure I am not alone in this state, a testament to his inspiring impact on so many young mountain bikers’ lives perhaps? Stander was only 25 years young and his one year wedding anniversary to his cycling and life partner, Cherise Taylor would have been in a short four months. A legend in love who was taken to soon whilst training for the sport he was devoted to and a sport in which he has left a lasting legacy.
Only last week Wes and I went cycling at Clearwater Trails, one of Stander’s favourite training trails, and explored the beautiful coast lines along which this shocking and completely unnecessary death occurred. Our ages and passions (albeit, not our success just yet) closely mirror that of the Stander couple and I cannot begin to comprehend what Cherise must be going through now. All I can say is that I along with thousands of fellow mourners are sending love, light and strength to her, family and friends.
My utmost respect for this cycling champion. Burry Stander held the title of UCI Mountain Bike World Cup under-23 men’s cross-country in 2009, won the Absa Cape Epic race with team partner Christoph Sauser last year and in 2011, came third in the Mountain Bike World Championships held in Quebec, Canada in 2010. The first time this talented young cyclist became known to me was on a Sunday afternoon last year. Wes and I were at my dad and gran’s birthday lunch and had settled ourselves in to watch him race in the 2012 London Olympic Games cross-country mountain bike challenge. Soon, we had the entire party’s eyes glued to the TV, watching our proudly South African cyclist quickly moving to 11th position from 19th halfway into the first lap. The race then became nail-biting with Stander and Spaniard Ramos Hermida switching between third and fourth place respectively – at one point Stander even launched himself into the lead but unfortunately a moment’s hesitation in the rock garden cost him first position and he was overtaken by the leading three riders. After a solid performance Stander finished fifth, a great improvement from his 15th place in the Beijing Games a few years earlier when he was only 20 years old. Since that day I have avidly followed his career and was even luck enough to see him at one of the Nissan Trailseeker Series events towards the end of last year.
Burry Stander has contributed an enormous amount to the South African cycling community and without his energy and drive, mountain biking in this country might not have been able to be enjoyed by the likes of aspiring cyclists such as myself. He was an ambassador of the sport, ensured trails became accessible and has opened some Concept Cycle stores across the country. Any sport (or industry for that matter) needs a humble and successful role-model, thank you Burry for being that person for so many people!
What we as cyclists and motorists; road users alike, needs to learn from this is that we need to start respecting each other. Motorists needs to respect the cyclists’ need for space but cyclists also need to be considerate/careful and cycle in single file, wearing visible clothing and all the necessary protection. These kinds of accidents are so enraging because they are avoidable. The safety needs of cyclists’ has to be addressed and all that I can now hope is that this devastating loss will act as a catalyst for change. We live in a beautiful country with fantastic weather that should be enjoyed by cyclists, runners…residents and visitors. Government’s role in all of this is of paramount importance, without visible and reliable law enforcement, the sad truth is that people will not follow the rules of the road. With that, new rules of the road need to be set – an example of this is the Pedal Power Association’s campaign to legalise a safe passing distance of 1.5m between vehicles and cyclists.
Protest rides have been organised all over the country in remembrance of this legend, killed in a way which is far from remote for most of us cyclists. For Twitter updates and constructive action and commentary follow #RideForBurry, #burrystander, @JPSAorg, @bicyclesafetysa, @CriticalMassJhb and many others (to view some retweets have a look at my twitter feed here)
Pictures’ sources: clicking on each picture will link back to where I got the picture from Google Images. The full Google image search can be found here.
Beautiful tributes from other bloggers/writers/news sources:
- A tribute to Burry Stander – Tim Brink for Ride Magazine
- The memory of a legend will live with us forever – Oliver Munnik
- Burry Stander killed while training – Bicycling SA
- RIP Burry Stander, our hero – Absa Cape Epic
- In memory of Burry Stander – Advendurance on Facebook
- Photo tribute – Gary Perkin
- Such a sad day for South Africa – Nic White
- Burry Stander killed in car/bike collision – Velo News
- Burry Stander: South African mountain biker killed in crash – BBC Sport
- RIP Burry Stander – Sport 24
- Olympic mountainbiker Burry Stander dies – Eyewitness News
- SA Olympic mountain biker Burry Stander killed in accident – BD Live
- Standers death the fruit of a poisoned society – by far the best piece of writing on this tragedy I have read.