It sounds as if there will be no real race today at the Tour of Qatar, following the sudden, tragic death of Topsport Vlaanderen rider Frederiek Nolf. Nolf, 21, died in his sleep during the night. The race is underway but has been neutralized. JFS_PGH offered a translation in the comments of the next post of the reports:
The Belgian cyclist Frederiek Nolf (Topsport Vlaanderen) was found dead in his hotel room Thursday morning, announced Eddy Merckx, one of the course directors of the Tour of Qatar. Frederiek Nolf, about to celebrate his 22nd birthday on the 10th of February, was found lifeless around 9 AM local time (7AM French time) in the 14th floor room of the Ritz-Carlton that he shared with one of his teammates, compatriot Kristof Goddaert. This roommate, realizing that Frederiek Nolf was not waking up, alerted his directeur sportif, Jean-Pierre Heynderrickx.
"I shook Frederiek’s leg, telling him to wake up," explained [Mr. Heynderrickx]. "But I quickly perceived that something was not normal. I took his hand, and it was cold. There was no pulse. I therefore told Kristof to leave the room because there was a major problem." A few minutes later, a doctor confirmed the death.
Cycling has lost a lot of young riders in their sleep during the heydays of EPO, so questions about doping must be asked, but in Nolf's case there is as yet no apparent reason to be suspicious.
Asked about any previous signs of fatigue in Nolf, Jean-Pierre Heynderrickx was clear. "Nothing alerted us to a health problem," he emphasized. "Frederiek was in top form. Last night, I was joking with him just until he went to bed at 10 PM." His roomate noticed nothing during the night, and Frederiek Nolf was found lying on his back, in his normal sleeping position. The DS further declared, "our riders undergo medical tests four times a year at the University of Louvain (in Belgium) and all Frederiek’s parameters / stats have always been normal. What has happened was completely unexpected."
Update: Video of today's events. The peloton is sometimes a bit of a family...
Tour of Qatar 2009 Stage 5 (via Wielerflits)