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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Special Edition Cycling News for November 27, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Gent Six Day ends in "nightmare"

Isaac Gálvez on Day 3 of racing
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
Click for larger image

The cycling world is in shock over the death of Isaac Gálvez, who suffered a fatal accident on Saturday night at the Gent Six Day. The track world champion and road cyclist for Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears collided with Dimitri De Fauw and fell onto the rail at the top of the track. He fell unconscious immediately and died on the way to the Gent University Clinic hospital. Preliminary reports indicate the cause of death was an internal hemmorhage, but the full story will not be available until the autopsy is complete. The remainder of the event was cancelled by the organiser.

"A feeling of sorrow and consternation reigns," Patrick Sercu, director of competition, told Sporza from the 'Kuipke' track on Sunday. "On the road, there are 20 teams who each stay in their hotel - but on the track, the riders are one team, there are always together. There is a great atmosphere with healthy rivalry. Every one has to get through this in their own way.

"This is a crash that can happen in every competition. In 45 years, I've never experienced a deadly accident. This is an absolute low in my career. I don't care about the results [of the six-day] now."

Six Day organiser Rob Discart said, "This is a disaster, a drama. Words are not enough to express what we feel, and what all persons present feel. The cancellation was the least we could do. We don't think about if the next edition (of the Six Day) is in danger. Our thoughts are now with the rider and his family and friends."

One of the leaders of the competition at the time of the accident, Iljo Keisse, also expressed deep sorrow. "I'm glad I didn't see it myself," he said. "When we heard of the news, all riders stayed together for another two hours in a hotel room. We talked and supported one another, but nothing will bring Isaac back.

"Track racing is dangerous; we're not protected like in motorcross. But everybody knows that crashes are part of the game. I don't give a damn about the results. A beautiful week turned into a real nightmare."

Llaneras and Galvez
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
Click for larger image

Track legend Stan Tourné was a spectator during the event in Gent, and saw the crash happen right in front of him. "I protected my daughter to avoid him as he was flying over the balustrade. De Fauw and Gálvez touched each other with the shoulders and Gálvez was catapulted to the outside while De Fauw crashed on the inside," the Belgian explained. "Gálvez ended up in the barriers of the track which are there to prevent the riders from hitting the stands; Gálvez took the impact of the collision with the metal barriers on his chest," Tourné added.

The two times winner in Gent was critical about what happened after the crash. "There was help, but a bit helpless I would say. At first, most people were concerned about De Fauw but I saw that Gálvez must have received an enormously big impact. I shouted from the stands to bring help to Isaac Gálvez as I saw he was suffocating, he couldn’t get air," Tourné said. He said he didn’t want to be overly critical, but admitted, "The help - in my opinion - was not sufficient; but I don’t know if more help was possible. I always heard that the first minutes after a crash are very important, and I must say that not much aid was offered during those first minutes."

Team Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears director Eusebio Unzúe said, "I was still talking to him two days ago, studying next season's calendar. He was going to compete in the track world's in Palma de Mallorca, so we discussed which preparation would be best, which races would be most suited... and now this," he told, still in shock.

Unzúe also said that Gálvez' partner in the six-day, Juan Llaneras, was "taking care of all the formalities. José Miguel [Echávarri, the team's General Manager - ed.] talked to him. He's devastated." Llaneras was Galvez' racing partner since 1999. Unzúe, Gálvez sister Débora and other family members will join Llaneras in Belgium on Sunday evening to make arrangements to transport the body of Isaac Gálvez back to Spain on Tuesday, according to the latest reports.

Gálvez was not just a champion on the track, but he was also a strong sprinter on the road. In his professional career of just six seasons, he earned twelve victories, most recently in the final stage of the Four days of Dunkirk in May. But the Spaniard felt that his efforts were overlooked by the Spanish press because they focused only on Oscar Freire. Gálvez was determined to show his worth, and was disappointed with his results during this year's Tour de France, where he finished 2nd on stage four and 6th on stages one and nine, claiming he only would be happy with a win.

(See our earlier report for Gálvez' more details on his career highlights.)

Valverde dedicates victory to Gálvez

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears rider Alejandro Valverde has dedicated his victory in the Criterium of Murcia to his deceased teammate Isaac Gálvez. Visibly stunned by the sad news that occurred in the Six Days of Gent, where Spanish track rider Isaac Gálvez (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) died, the forty professionals participating in the Criterium on Sunday discussed whether the race should take place, but finally decided that the best way to honour Gálvez was to offer a great cycling spectacle. The peloton thus observed a minute of silence before starting the race.

"It has been a great blow, and we have even questioned the celebration of this criterium, but I believe that we guessed right with Isaac Gálvez's desire to carry on," Alejandro Valverde told El Faro de Murcia.

The second place rider in this year's Giro d'Italia, José E. Gutierrez, along with the 2006 UCI ProTour runner-up, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi), Xavier Florencio, Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile), local riders Luis Leon Sanchez and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Astana) and Jose Luis Martinez and Claudio Casas (Comunitat Valenciana), all took part in this Criterium of Murcia, organised by Alejandro Valverde. The Murcian won the race, followed by Samuel Sanchez and José Luis Martínez.

Next season, the Spanish Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears leader will do the same calendar as in 2006, except for the Tour de Romandie, "because it was good for me", but does not discount the possibilty of participating in the Vuelta, "depending on my results in Tour of France." In this sense, Valverde left open the possibility of facing two of the three Grand Tours. Regarding his return to the classics in March and April, Valverde assured that, "I will compete without pressure, because I already know what it feels like to win." Valverde will of course also participate in the Vuelta a Murcia, "where I will play a role similar to 2006."

Gálvez - A personal view

The Cyclingnews' reporters on assignment in Gent, Laura Weislo and Brecht Decaluwé, are still coming to terms with this tragic day. Our Belgian reporter, Brecht Decaluwé, talked to Isaac Gálvez Lopez only last Wednesday between two events in the Gent Six Day.

Isaac Gálvez sharing joy at the '06 Tour de France with his family
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

"Isaac [Galvez] had just finished the first Madison of the evening where he had another - minor - crash after a bad rotation with his team mate Llaneras. Both of them were laughing about the incident, joking that crashes are an element in track racing… the duo complained that they didn't like the track in Gent as it was shorter than most other tracks," Decaluwé said.

Our Belgian reporter first came into contact with the Spanish sprinter during the last Tour de France and gradually warmed to his personality. "He appeared to be a grouchy person but I found out him to be a great guy. He always felt that he didn't get the respect he deserved from the Spanish press as they don't have an eye for sprinters if they're not called Oscar Freire.

"He was unhappy with his results during the first week of the Tour (second and sixth), claiming he only would be happy with a win. Freire won that day…" he said. Galvez was enjoying the best time of his life, being world champion in the Madison and having a happy family life.

"Galvez was a real family man and he remembered that I took a picture of him, his wife and his family during the Tour (de France). So on Wednesday, Galvez was so happy to tell me he got married recently. He was looking forward to performing well in the races he won last year, but his main goal would be winning the Madison during the world championships in Mallorca.

" Performing well on home soil together with his compatriot and racing partner since 1999 - Juan Llaneras - was his dream. His wife, family and friends including many riders like Oscar Pereiro Sio and Juan Llaneras will miss this good person, the same counts for me and everybody else here at Cyclingnews," Decaluwé said.

Cyclingnews wishes to extend its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Isaac Gálvez.

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