Reigning Giro d'Italia champion Egan Bernal is the latest rider to pay tribute to Julian Gomez, a 13-year-old cycling fan who was killed in a road traffic collision in Colombia at the weekend.
Gomez made the news in 2019 when an image circulated of him crying as Bernal became the first Colombian to win the Tour de France. Two weeks after the Team Ineos rider's victory in France, Bernal met with Gomez, and the video exchange went viral. Local artists also painted a mural to commemorate Bernal's victory and included Gomez in the painting.
"It was exciting to see him because I ride a bicycle, too," Gomez said at the time. "I want to be like him."
Hoy lloramos por ti Julián, el verdadero Orgullo de mi patria🙏🏽. pic.twitter.com/ycyBquj2vV— Egan Arley Bernal (@Eganbernal) July 19, 2021
The boy's uncle, Guillermo Caicedo, told reporters that Gomez was run over by a tractor-trailer while training with his cycling team -- which is run by Fabio Rodriguez, Bernal's former coach -- in the city of Zipaquira, north of Bogotá, where Bernal grew up.
Caicedo, who was riding with his nephew along the road, said the vehicle approached too close and honked at them, causing Gomez to lose control before sliding under the wheels.
Bernal paid tribute to his young fan on social media, saying "Today we mourn for you Julian, the true pride of my homeland."
Rodriguez posted his condolences on social media and said [translated from Spanish]: "Today you leave without being able to fulfill your dreams that you had and you leave me without anyone to bother, only 13 years old and a damn muleteer takes your life, your early departure breaks my heart, it only remains for me to tell you that I miss you forever my dear Julian."
Team Ineos teammate Daniel Martinez called for drivers in his native country Colombia to take all precautions around those riding on busy roads. "Let's all be very responsible," Martinez said.