I started this post 10 or 20 times and deleted it. How do you even begin to write something meaningful at a time like this?

I’ve questioned myself over and over. What right do I have to write about this? I didn’t know Gino. It’s not ‘my’ loss to grieve. So will someone explain to me, why I’m so sad?

So I did what I do, when I don’t know what else I can do: I wrote. I cried and I wrote because that's all I have recourse to; words are my way of processing the chaos in my brain, and if anyone, just one of you, finds any comfort in these words, then I guess it was worth it.

So I’m sorry if it’s too soon, or not soon enough. And I’m sorry if it seems too much, or too little. And I’m sorry if it’s too personal or not personal enough.

I’m just sorry.


Friday 16th June 2023 will remain etched in the memory of cycling fans around the world for many years to come. And for all the wrong reasons.

I sat motionless at the table in my kitchen feeling empty, numb, and completely drained, having somehow made it home from my morning pilates class in my car despite shaking hands and tears rolling down my cheeks - probably not safe to drive. I clung on to my phone like a lifeline, as though it held answers to the shock that rendered my body inert and the silence screaming in my mind. Seeking answers that weren’t there, wishing somehow to read something that would make it stop. And I asked myself, what gives me the right to feel this way? When others have far more legitimate claim on this loss, and the resulting grief? I was completely alone.

Until I discovered I wasn't alone. I read comments ranging from 'this is the saddest I've ever felt over losing someone I didn't even know' to 'this has hit me harder than when I lost someone I knew,' and 'this is the toughest loss I've ever known in this sport'; along with multiple attempts to express the inexpressible – ‘heartbroken’; ‘devastated’; ‘speechless’.

No words could adequately express the pain of the sheer injustice of it all; a blanket emotional injury being done to many, simultaneously. It called to the deep collective instincts in the primitive part of my brain to draw together with my tribe and howl at the moon, to release these feelings that were too big to contain. Feelings that felt like they didn’t belong to me, but that I also couldn’t deny were happening.

Because beyond the personal loss felt acutely by so many, Gino's death feels like a wound inflicted on the collective psyche of a community.

Overriding everything, the disbelief, the collective expression of 'just, fuck no. NO.' A refusal to accept the grim, dark truth. That a man died doing what he loved to do, and the thing that we love to watch.

As the day dragged past, I marvelled at the strength of others as I myself stagnated, frozen in shock. The Swiss riders who mourned together; the riders who took to the shortened course in Switzerland to pay their respects, despite the raw grief and misery that they were facing head on; the race organisers, struggling to know what to do for the best, dealing with the loss themselves; the team mates who formed a united front, in memory of their comrade. Their brother.

The commentators who spoke so eloquently and continued on, doing their jobs in the face of overwhelming sorrow. Rob Hatch who offered moving tributes both on the day and the following day, with measured respect and great dignity. The riders taking to social media to share their feelings and to remember Gino, and the journalists and writers who did their best to eulogise a man who was clearly greatly loved within the peloton and beyond, a man who by all accounts was friendly, kind, funny, and generous. Who cared deeply for our world, and backed up his statements with promises, following through on those promises with his own money. A great rider, who had endeared himself to many over his few short years of riding, whether it be from the time he narrowly missed out on a stage win at Paris-Nice to Primoz Roglič, to the stage win at the Giro that felt something like redemption. A man who will be deeply missed by so many.

Some who had known Gino, from fleeting encounters to lifelong friends and everything in between, shared stories, memories and anecdotes. Those of us on the outside, having never met the man, gathered around like onlookers, just needing to know we weren't experiencing these feelings in isolation.

All the while I felt the dichotomy of being an outsider, of not belonging to this event. And there were other feelings.

Guilt. Over whether I'm experiencing this loss 'correctly'. Whether I'm allowed to experience it at all, having never known the man personally.

Wondering if I'm grieving for my own loss, or empathising with the loss of a family and a team, or experiencing it as part of a community, a sport, the wider world, that in so many respects will be a poorer place for the lack of Gino Mäder in it.

Wanting to know everything, and also nothing. Because no answer to the questions 'why?' or 'how?' could ever ease the pain. Feeling a literal twist of pain in my gut when I saw 'DNF' on his record next to the stage result, and the race result, which was still in the future. Sobbing at the sight of Gino with the dog he rescued, named after his team mate, and took everywhere with him, when he could, just so he wouldn't be alone.

Examining and second-guessing my public reactions to see if they are worthy. Respectful enough. Too trite. Not enough. Too much.

Trying to battle a desperate need for it simply not to be true. To just want to go back to talking about superficial nonsense, complaining about team selections or speculating about transfers. Laughing about the crazy, bonkers shit that this sport throws up on a daily basis and mostly keeps us all amused, though occasionally wringing our hands.

Of course, it called to mind memories of my own greatest and most recent loss, that of my Dad, 3 years ago. Though even that in itself felt wrong, like I was devaluing the memory of one or the other.

Losing a parent is so very personal. When you suffer a loss alone, or at least, in a way that no-one else around you can feel, it fractures you for a while, until you find yourself living it inside your head, closing it off and saving it for the quiet moments, baring your soul only to the four walls around you. No-one else could experience the loss of my Dad in the same way as me, could they?

But people feel their own grave losses, all the time. Very few have been fortunate enough not to feel loss. And this was something quite other; a sense of loss being experienced simultaneously with thousands of others, people who know how I felt, more or less. We were all on the same page. Losing someone who was a part of a wider community felt like tapping into raw grief and partaking of it like a ritual, a necessary step toward believing in the reality of the situation. Facing up to the humanity of grief as an all-consuming, visceral pain.

I've only been a part of the online cycling community for 3 years, but in that time the sport has experienced great trauma - most recently the crashes and subsequent (relative) recoveries of Amy Pieters and Egan Bernal; the freshness of the shock of Fabio Jakobsen and Remco Evenepoel's crashes. But the scale of this was grievous. To lose one so young, with so much still to give. This hadn't occurred since Bjorg Lambrecht in 2019, at a time when I loved the sport but looking back now, whose death I experienced as an outsider, the same way I would feel when a well-loved sports star or actor that I enjoy watching passes. Sadness. Some time to think respectfully. And then, a moving on.

Not so with Gino. What I may have lacked in personal acquaintance I more than made up for in learning of his character second-hand, from interviews, social media, his charity work to support the climate emergency, and all experienced as someone now inside the circle. One of our own. Part of the family. A wide, global family of fans and enthusiasts who take to social media daily to share their thoughts, from the sublime to ridiculous, and with it, the attachment to the riders as individuals, as part of the ever-changing, shifting machinery of the World Tour peloton, viewed on our screens with so much investment, and enjoyment. A sport that has given me a new lease of life as I've embraced it on a deeper level.

And so I circled back around to guilt. How can I turn on my TV in good faith, and watch the peloton descend at high speed again, knowing any one of them could lose their life, with just one slip up, just one loose pebble or twitch of the wrist?' The horrible punch to the pit of the stomach as I acknowledged another uncomfortable truth: that I knew this all along, and continued to watch, and exclaim, and endorse these incredible feats of daring.

So I remained at an impasse. To turn on the TV and embrace the sport I loved once more, and to allow this love to live alongside this grief, and the fear that will forever accompany the sight of a peloton descending at speed. Or to step away and give up my purpose.

The option was too terrible to bear and it was only when I opened social media the following day and saw some teams withdrawing, and some continuing on; some racing, fighting with their bodies to honour Gino's memory while others quietly withdrew to take time with their thoughts and their sorrow, that Wout van Aert's words finally rang clear: there are no wrong decisions. And as another fine user of the Cycling Twitter community added 'only the least bad decisions'. Though we are in it together, our reactions will vary wildly, based on our own past experiences, and our psychological make up. That day, I couldn’t look at racing at all; I took myself away, spent time with family and friends, and gave myself time to heal, or at least to think about something else. A luxury I know many could not afford. Then later, alone, writing this, the feelings flooded back brand new.

So how we go forward must decide alone. Day by day, week by week, even hour by hour or minute by minute. Turn the TV on, if you want to. Turn it off again, if you simply cannot watch. Think about Gino and remember what you knew of him, when you can. Go outside and ride your bike, take a walk, or sit and turn your face to the sun when you cannot. Live on. Never forget. But do what feels right for you, and allow others to do the same. And if it's all too much for you one day just remember we are all in this together, we are a community. And repeat the old cycling cliché: we go again tomorrow.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Gino Mader dates. Any ko-fi donations received in support of this post or any other post on the site reflecting on this subject will be donated to Justdiggit, Gino's charity of choice.

Thank you for reading.

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