Today the X-Speed United team announced the passing of rider Mark Groeneveld. The Dutch rider was in Hong Kong with the team when he collapsed. The reasons for his death are still to be investigated. The team wrote on Instagram: “While the circumstances of Mark’s passing are currently under investigation, we have received preliminary information that suggests it may have been due to a heart attack. We are working closely with the relevant authorities to gather all the facts and provide the necessary support to Mark’s family during this painful period.” José knew Mark as one of the kids having fun in a youth cycling event in the Netherlands and wrote down these words.
A young man died. A bike rider. His name was Mark Groeneveld. He was 20 years young. I knew Mark since he was a small kid racing around the circuits in the Jeugdtour Assen, an event I volunteer for. It’s a stage race for kids from eight years on. They pretend to be big star riders. Some of them grow into big stars and others are well on their way. Many of them just enjoyed racing bikes and spending time with friends. It’s the purest form of bike riding. It’s pure joy.
Mark liked racing bikes, like so many people in the world, like so many of us. We go out on a daily basis, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the changing seasons around us. We embrace the painful legs and cherish the tailwind. It clears the mind and it nourishes the soul. We all know that feeling.
Sadly, we also all know the feeling of close calls. How danger always travels with us. In training, in races, in travel. The world is not as safe as it once was, not even in the Netherlands with the bike infrastructure we have here.
Mark raced bikes across the world for a team called X-Speed United, a Continental pro team. A name on the start list for most of us, a rider in a breakaway but a son to his parents. A brother. A friend. He passed away in Hong Kong. That’s 10,000 kilometers away from home. He said goodbye and went on another adventure but this time it was a last one.
This year we said goodbye to many riders and we also witnessed many close calls. Racing is getting faster. The COVID-19 virus causes cardiac issues in top-level athletes. Life is becoming ever more vulnerable. And those at home just hope for a safe return. For another meal together. Another laugh. Another birthday. Another hug. All these things matter more than a result ever could.
Every day we go out. We take our bikes. We enjoy ourselves but that fear for our own safety and that of others always lingers. It’s ever-present as we think of the names of those that left us this year. Tijl, Gino, Mark, Magnus. And all the names before them.
May they enjoy everlasting tailwinds. May we remember their names. May their parents, their friends, and their teammates find solace in this moment where tears just run out, where we run out of words to grieve.