The announcement of a major sponsor for the Cell C Tour of South Africa was supposed to be a high-five moment for a sport that has been used to living hand to mouth compared to the feast of money available to others. There were no high fives, no victory dances, no fireworks, for at the back of everyone’s mind at the Primedia offices in Sandton yesterday was the untimely passing of one of South African cycling’s brightest lights.
The death of Carla Swart sat heavy on hearts yesterday. A new dawn for South African cycling was to be announced, but a diamond-brilliant future was gone in a flash. A moment of silence was held to open the launch. The HTC Highroad team rode with black armbands for the third stage of the Tour Down Under yesterday.
HTC Highroad changed the front page of their website to black, with a simple picture of Swart on the front. A slideshow of her with her new teammates and as a college rider at Lees-McRae rolled on, evoking memories and touching hearts. On Twitter the messages of condolence were frequent and heartfelt. Here are a few of them:
Robbie McEwen (former Tour de France green jersey winner): “RIP Carla Swart, sincerest condolences to her family & friends. Tragedy.”
Mark Renshaw (Australia pro): “So sad to wake up to the bad news. RIP Carla Swart, sincerest condolences to her family & friends.”
Brian Nygaard (team owner Leopard-Trek): “Thoughts go out to the family and friends of Carla Swart.”
Axel Merckx (former professional, son of Eddy Merckx): “Terrible news about Carla Swart. My condolence to her family and friends.”
Michael Rogers (HTC teammate and former world time trial champion): “Tragic news about Carla Swart. My condolence to her family and friends.”
Andy Schleck (2nd in the 2010 Tour de France): “Tragic news about Carla Swart. all our condolence to her family and friends.”
Marianne Vos (former world champion): Sad to hear the tragic news about Carla Swart and Lewis Baldyckyi, both young riders were killed in an accident during training. R.I.P.”
Lees-McRae College, where Swart was studying, is establishing the Carla Swart Memorial Scholarship, which, the college said in a statement, “will be awarded annually to a female cyclist who demonstrates a love for the sport and exhibits great promise as a cyclist. Checks should be made out to Lees-McRae College (note Carla Swart Scholarship in the memo line) and mailed to the Office of Advancement, PO Box 128, Banner Elk, NC 28604, United States of America.”