Pieter Ombregt (XXX Racing-AthletiCo) crashed hard racing at Matteson last night. Despite immediate first aid and more than two hours of surgery, Pieter passed away later in the evening at St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields.
It is a devastating loss for his family and the second tragedy to strike XXX Racing-AthletiCo this year.
This is my understanding of the crash, most of which comes from Michael Kelly (South Chicago Wheelmen), who was there: The 27-year-old Belgian was attacking into the wind out of Turn 4, one of many “frisky” attacks of his this night. After looking back to check his gap, he apparently strayed to the right, off the road, and struck industrial piping near the start/finish area. He was going about 30 mph. The force of the crash broke his carotid artery and caused massive bleeding. He never regained consciousness.
Witnesses speculate that he may have been blinded by the setting sun, which at that hour was in riders’ eyes on that section of the course.
This was his second season with XXX Racing-AthletiCo after racing with ABD in 2005. He was a frequent racer at Matteson, and when he visited his family in Belgium he would train and race there. (On Aug. 25 he placed 7th in the Parochianenkoers Hertsberghe.) At Superweek this year he won the Cedarburg 4/5’s and placed 2nd in Whitefish Bay.
He lived in Chicago with his fiancee. His family is en route from Belgium.
I will update this post as information develops. Friends and others are encouraged to share their thoughts and memories in the comments.
This isn’t supposed to happen, ever, and for it to happen twice in one city, to one team, my team, is confounding.
6 p.m.: The Daily Southtown has a story: “Accomplished cyclist crashes in Matteson race, dies.”
11 p.m.: I’ve started a photo gallery over at the XXX Racing-AthletiCo site.
9 a.m.: I wasn’t sure at first, but that is our Pieter behind pieterombregt.com. I had no idea he was such a talented photographer. His portraits are amazing. A photographer colleague of Pieter’s has a remembrance.
9:30 a.m.: Teammate Bob Willems also has a remembrance: “He brought his heart and guts to the start line of every race. People came to know Pieter by the character of his riding, and I think that’s the highest compliment for a cyclist.”
11 a.m.: The South Chicago Wheelmen have canceled the rest of the 2007 Matteson series, an understandable decision. The Daily Southtown story hints at this, but I expect there will be a difficult decision to be made, by both our friends at SCW and our generous hosts at Ace Hardware, about whether the races continue. I for one hope they do. I can’t think of anything in the Chicago area that contributes more to racer safety than these practice criteriums. We are better, safer riders because of them.
6 p.m. There will be a viewing this Sunday, Sept. 16, at Drake & Son Funeral Home, 5303 N. Western, Chicago, beginning at 11:30 a.m. A prayer service will follow at 1:30 p.m.
9 a.m.: CyclingNews has a brief item.
4 p.m.: A scholarship to honor Pieter has been established. To donate to the Pieter Ombregt Scholarship Fund, direct funds to:
Columbia College Chicago
Attn. Kim Clement
600 S. Michigan Ave., 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60605
His family will be notified of your contribution.
6 p.m.: It was standing room only at Pieter’s prayer service today. Many moving and beautiful things were said in tribute to Pieter. Of relevance to the cyclists reading this are the words from Pieter’s father: “When you are in the peloton and look around and do not see Pieter, do not be sad that he is not there. He is there. He’s just escaped. He is around the corner, and you must go faster to catch up to him.”
12 p.m.: Mark your calendars: On Thursday, Nov. 15, at 5 p.m. a reception will open an exhibition of Pieter’s photography at the City Gallery of Photography at 800 N. Michigan Ave. This is a prestigious location, and the exhibition will run through Feb. 3.
3 p.m.: The Columbia Chronicle has a story: “Tragic cycling accident claims life of Columbia photography student.”
And in Het Volk: “Onze zoon is vredig en gelukkig gestorven.”