In many Colombian houses, the joys that cycling brings are suffered and cried as their own. To travel through the roads of the Andean country full of people pedaling is to understand why this, and not football, is the national sport. But this weekend was not to celebrate: Colombia is shocked and in mourning for the death of Julián Esteban Gómez, a child cyclist, who was run over by a tractor-trailer while training on a road in Zipaquirá, 40 kilometers from Bogotá.
The voices of pain for the tragic death have come from all corners. Egan Bernal, the winner of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, posted a heartfelt video to remember him. “Today we cry for you Julián, the true pride of my country,” he wrote about the 13-year-old, while President Iván Duque said he received the news with “deep pain” and sent solidarity and prayers to the family.
Julián’s face had gone around the world in 2019 when he cried with emotion over Bernal’s triumph. In the Plaza de Zipaquirá, up on his bicycle and wearing his helmet, he saw how Egan became the first Colombian to be crowned champion of the Tour. Her uncontrollable crying became the image of the country’s joy at that time. “As soon as he arrived, I gave him a big hug and told him that I wanted to be like him, that I wanted to fight for my dreams. He told me that he would support me and I replied that I thank you very much, “said the boy when Egan visited Zipaquirá, their homeland.
According to the testimony of Guillermo Caicedo, Julián’s uncle and who accompanied him in training, the boy was a victim of intolerance by a truck driver. “(He was) harassing us with the bugles, he got too close to us, the boy became more nervous than me and lost his balance, fell on the wheels of the mule and died instantly,” said his uncle.
The truck driver got out and reproached the uncle for traveling on the road and not on a bike path, but he argued that they are not suitable for training. Later, the man turned himself in to the police and was released hours later, although he continues to be linked to the wrongful death investigation.
The event opened a debate on the risk faced by thousands of cyclists on the country’s roads. According to the National Road Safety Observatory, 154 bicycle users died on the country’s roads and streets alone in 2020. Of these, 33 were victims of cargo trucks or tractor trucks.
“There are many intolerant drivers who are angry to see cyclists and they pull up the car. Every day there is danger riding a bicycle, ”the boy’s uncle added to local media. “Who does not hurt that a child with those illusions of being a great cyclist ends up on the wheels of a mule,” he added.
In Zipaquirá, in the place where there is a mural with the images of Egan Bernal and Julián Gómez, hundreds of people continue to arrive to watch and mourn the child.
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