Paris (AP) — French judicial officials launched an investigation Monday into the death of Belgian rider Michael Goolaerts during the Paris-Roubaix cycling race.
Cambrai prosecutor Remi Schwartz told The Associated Press that an autopsy will be performed on Goolaerts’ body in the coming days to determine the exact cause of death.
The 23-year-old Belgian died at a hospital in Lille, where he had been taken by helicopter from the race. Organizers said in a medical statement that he suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest.
Goolaerts had been airlifted to the hospital after collapsing about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the finish in the second of the 29 cobblestone sectors of the race known as “The Hell of the North.” No images of the incident were available but TV footage of the race showed Goolaerts lying unresponsive on the side of the road as the peloton passed him. He was then attended to by a medical team and appeared to receive CPR.
According to Schwartz, early investigation results indicate that Goolaerts might have fallen off his bike because of a cardiac episode, and that it was not the crash that led to his death.
“But at this stage we don’t have any absolute certainty,” he said. “There is no obvious explanation, nor an obvious traumatism as the cause (of his death).”
Goolaerts was in his fourth year with the Veranda’s Willems-Crelan team. He rode in support of cyclo-cross world champion Wout van Aert of Belgium at Paris-Roubaix. His most significant result this season was 20th at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
Goolaerts’ death came two years after Belgian cyclist Daan Myngheer died following a heart attack during the Criterium International race in Corsica. Another Belgian cyclist, Antoine Demoitie, died the same year following a crash in the Gent-Wevelgem race.