The world of cycling is in shock after the death of Michael Goolaerts. The Belgian rider passed away after suffering a heart attack during the grueling Paris-Roubaix race.
The cycling community was united in sorrow on Monday, a day after Michael Goolaerts died after suffering cardiac arrest and falling off his bike in the Paris-Roubaix race.
David Pappartient, the president of the UCI, cycling's world governing body, spoke of the "immense sadness" that the sport's community felt following the Belgian rider's death.
"On behalf of the Union Cycliste Internationale and the cycling family as a whole, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the family, team and friends of Michael Goolaerts, who left us too early today. We share their immense sadness," a UCI statement released late on Sunday said.
This was issued shortly after Goolaert's team, Veranda's Willems-Crelan Cycling, comfirmed the news of his death.
"It is with unimaginable sadness that we have to communicate the passing of our rider and friend Michael Goolaerts," the statement said." He died of cardiac arrest, all medical assistance was to no avail."
Tweeting in Flemish, the captain of Veranda's Willems-Crelan Cycling, Wout van Aert, noted that as they were the same age they had spent a lot of time riding together.
"Your eternal smile will always remain an inspiration to me. Rest softly," he tweeted.
Peter Sagan, who won Sunday's race also took to Twitter to express his sadness about the 23-year-old's death.
Christian Prudhomme, the race director of the Tour de France, which organizes the Paris-Roubais, said they were "united in compassion" for Goolaerts' team.
It is not clear whether Goolaerts suffered the heart attack before crashing, but no other rider was involved in his crash. It happened at around the 100-kilometer (60 miles) mark of the 257-kilometer race, which is known as the "Hell of the North" because a large section of the course is made up of uneven cobbles.
On Monday afternoon local time, French judicial officials annouced that they had opened an investigation into Goolaerts death and that an autopsy was to be conducted in the next few days.
Goolaerts, who turned pro in 2014, had not won any major honors in cycling.
Previous cyling deaths
His death is the latest of a number of deaths in the sport in recent years.
In 2016, fellow Belgian Daan Myngheer, 22, died in hospital two days after suffering a heart attack on the Criterium International race in Corsica. Also in 2016, 21-year-old Dutch cyclist Gijs Verdick died after suffering two heart attacks in the under-23 Carpathian Couriers Race in Poland.
Last year former Giro d'Italia winner Michele Scarponi of Italy died in a training accident, while Belgian Antoine Demoitie was the victim of a 2016 collision with a motorcycle during a race.
pfd/jh (dpa, AFP, SID)