Fabio Casartelli, like many young cyclists, dreamed of achieving infamy in the Tour de France. Unfortunately, in an unprecedented bike crash, Casartelli lost his life and remains only the third rider to ever die during the Tour de France race.

Fabio Casartelli was born in Como, Italy in August of 1970. Throughout his amateur cycling career, he showed a lot of potential, most notably with his win of a gold medal in the road race event of the 1992 Olympic Games. He finished one second ahead of the Netherlands’ Erik Dekker, who went on to win four stages of the Tour de France in his own career.

The first Tour de France Casartelli competed in was in 1993, although Casartelli didn’t accomplish much in his debut. For the 1995 Tour de France, Team Motorola selected Casartelli to competed in the race, and Casartelli was hoping to improve upon his first appearance in the legendary race.

Casartelli was in the 15th stage of the 1995 Tour de France when he was suddenly involved in a crash with several other riders. The crash occurred during the descent on the Col de Portet d’Aspet in the Pyrenees. During the crash, Casartelli struck his head on the concrete blocks that lined the roadway, immediately causing him to lose consciousness. Sadly, Casartelli didn’t make it to the hospital, as he stopped breathing during the helicopter flight and couldn’t be resuscitated.

After Casartelli’s tragic death, there was some speculation that his life could have been saved, had he been wearing a bicycle helmet at the time of the accident. However, the senior doctor of the Tour de France, Gerard Porte, refuted such claims, as he said that the helmet would not have covered the area of Casartelli’s head where he received the damage that led to his death.

If anything positive could be taken from Casartelli’s untimely death, it was the way the riders participating in the 1995 Tour de France came together after the tragic crash. In tribute to Fabio Casartelli, his comrades in Team Motorola finished the next stage as a unit, crossing the finish line together. The rest of the pack finished right after, riding slowly in a show of respect to their fallen peer.

Fabio Casartelli left behind a wife and an infant son, and cyclists and the Tour de France officials themselves made sure they weren’t forgotten. A fund was established for Casartelli’s family, and all of the riders who received money for their participation and performances in the “tribute” stage donated their prize money to the fund. The Tour de France organizers matched the amount donated to the fund, and many individuals also pitched in to help do their part and help Casartelli’s family.

Fabio Casartelli’s death also helped to accomplish stricter helmet regulations for Tour de France riders. Over time, helmet rules have consistently been strengthened, and now riders can be fined for not wearing their helmets during any portion of the Tour de France. Even if Casartelli’s death couldn’t have been prevented by the use of a helmet, the fact that helmet use has become more widespread and required by race organizations means that his death was not in vain.

The thought of a sportsman like Fabio Casartelli losing his life in the midst of a competition is a dreadful one indeed. While there’s no guarantee that a tragedy like what happened to Casartelli won’t ever happen again, it’s important to know that precautions are being taken to keep such things from happening, and that Casartelli has not and will not be forgotten.

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