Two days later, I am still in utter disbelief that cycling legend Jure Robic is dead, killed when he collided with a car on a trining ride a few miles from his home in Slovenia. While the details of the accident are still forthcoming, it seems to me that it just can't be true. This was the man with seemingly endless stamina, strength and courage who was able to win the Race Across America (RAAM) five times in the past ten years. The guy who shattered the 24-hour cycling record in 2004 with a distance of 518 miles and who won Le Tour Direct, the one stage version of the Tour de France, in 2005 with a finish time of 7 days, 19 hours and 40 minutes. Read Markoh Baloh's fine personal account of that race here.
In addition to winning races, Jure was renowned for his erratic behavior and world class hallucinations while racing. The 2006 New York Times profile of Jure made him out to be something of a mad, athletic freak. Maybe he was. He rarely slept and often berated his crew during the race and famously abandoned the 2009 edition of RAAM (after completling mile 2862!!) when he and his crew disputed a time penalty imposed by RAAM officials. I learned a lot about both Jure's pathos and his amazing riding style by watching the amazing film Bicycle Dreams which profiles several of the solo racers on their quest to win the 2005 edition of RAAM. Anyone interested in endurance cycling should be sure to see this remarkable documentary. It may well ruin any dreams you have of competing in RAAM, but it provides a peerless window into the emotional life of the ultra-endurance athlete.
Being hit by a car is the last thing I wanted to have in common with Jure Robic. It sends shivers down my spine to think that within one month of my own accident, one of the greatest endurance athletes who's ever lived was cut down in his prime in much the same way that I was injured. While I am aware, on an intellectual level, of how miraculous my condition is after such an accident, this parallel situation is a bit haunting.
So the world is a worse place now than it was several days ago when Jure was still with us. With this tragedy we have yet another example (as if we needed one) that cycling is a dangerous sport and far too many people have suffered tragedies and lost their lives when colliding with cars pursuing their passion. I know that I will never approach riding the same way after mine and Jure's accidents, but I can only hope that the roads become safer and drivers more sensitized to the needs of cyclists. I also hope that Jure's girlfriend and son are able to rebuild their lives in his absence.