4 January 2013
South African cycling lost its greatest ever cross-country rider on Thursday. Burry Stander, one of the world’s leading competitors in the discipline, was killed while training after being hit by a minibus taxi.
Aged only 25, Stander’s death has sent shockwaves through the cycling community. There was also fury that yet another cyclist had been lost in an accident, with members of the community saying other vehicles do not respect them enough on the road.
Twitter lit up as plans began to be put in place for a ride in memory of the former under-23 world champion, who finished fifth in the 2012 London Olympic Games. Leading the way in planning it were cycling personalities such as world downhill champion Greg Minnaar, Andrew McLean, Robbie Hunter and Kevin McCallum.
‘I have no words’
Gary Perkin, one of the world’s leading mountain biking photographers, wrote on Twitter: “I have no words … Only tears! RIP Burry!” His sentiments were echoed by many.
“A fighter, champion, gentleman and forever a Legend… RIP Burry”, wrote Minnaar.
A statement released by Cycling South Africa read: “Burry, who was the most successful mountain bike cyclist the country has ever seen, and whose promising career has been abruptly cut short, was a true icon and sporting role model.
“Not only is this a loss to South African sport, but we have lost a true gentleman who through his professionalism, modesty and humility, constantly showing sheer guts, represented our country with great pride.
“We have been blessed to have had such an amazing and inspirational person represent South Africa and we will treasure every memory.”
2013 should have been a great year for Stander. It could have been the best of his life. He would have defended the Absa Cape Epic title with Christoph Sauser, aiming for a hat-trick of wins. News of his passing devastated the Swiss great. “Never felt so empty since my dad passed away when i was a kid. @africanmtbkid i will never ever forget you!” Sauser wrote on Twitter.
Stander was also set to take part in the World Championships on home ground, where he finished second in the World Cup in 2012 on the same track that will be used later this year.
His 2012 duel with Olympic silver medallist Nino Schurter for victory in the UCI World Cup in Pietermaritzburg was a sight to behold as the pair destroyed the chasing field. Seeing it on television is one thing; seeing such speed, endurance and skill in real life is another.
‘One of the coolest and greatest’
“World is going crazy! I’m so sad to hear again such bad news. Burry was one of the coolest and greatest athlete in MTB sport! #RIP” Schurter tweeted.
His wife of less than a year, Cherise, an elite cyclist too, won a stage of the Route de France, the women’s version of the Tour de France in 2011. She was set to concentrate on mountain biking in 2012, however, and hopefully follow in the footsteps of her husband.
Stander was part of Specialized Racing’s powerful team, and with Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy gave the outfit a fantastic 1-2 punch. Specialized’s director of sports marketing, David Hyam, wrote a letter about the passing of the South African star:
“It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to our friend and cycling legend Burry, who was tragically snatched away in the prime of his life while training in his home town of Kwazulu-Natal this afternoon.
‘Humility and prowess’
“We have lost not only a friend, colleague and team-mate, but a true sportsman. He will long be remembered for his humility, his prowess and the gentle manner in which he conducted his life!
“Our heartfelt sympathies, thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Cherise, his parents, family and all who were privileged to know this gentle giant.
“Life is short, life is sweet but his legend will live on forever.
“Sincere condolences to all.
“David Hyam and the Specialized S-Racing Team”
Respected and much loved
Stander’s outstanding talent, his massive work ethic, his excellent results at the highest level and his humility made him a respected and much loved man to many. The shock of his loss continues to reverberate around the cycling world.
Along with Greg Minnaar in downhill and Robbie Hunter on the road, he put South African cycling on the world map.
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