The dream of being a great cyclist ended tragically for Julián Esteban Gómez.
The Colombian boy’s face traveled the world in 2019, when he cried with emotion when he saw Egan Bernal become the first Colombian to win the Tour de France, a cycling competition held in France.
“It was a great emotion to see him. He is our idol,” Julián said at the time. “It was a thrill to see him because I also ride a bike and I want to be like him,” added the boy.
While training with his uncle on Sunday (18), a large truck ran over the teenager, who was 13, on a road in northern Bogotá, Colombia.
“Today you’re leaving without being able to fulfill the dreams you had,” tweeted coach Fabio Rodríguez, who was coach of the team the young man played for. “Your early departure breaks my heart, I can only say that I will miss you forever, my dear Julián,” added Rodríguez.
Gómez’s uncle, Guillermo Caicedo, explained to Colombian media that he and his nephew were training on their bicycles when the accident occurred in the department of Cundinamarca, north of Bogotá.
They were driving along a road between the municipalities of Zipaquirá and Cajicá, and apparently a truck was following them.
“The driver was an intolerant person. (He was) chasing us with the horn, getting too close to us, in such a way that the boy was much more nervous than me,” explained Caicedo to the newspaper El Tiempo.
“He lost his balance and fell between the wheels of the vehicle, dying instantly,” he added.
Cyclist Egan Bernal and Julián Gómez were painted on a mural in Zipaquirá — Photo: Luis Carlos Cifuentes/Twitter
Upon seeing the incident, the driver — whose identity was not disclosed — got out of the vehicle and scolded them for driving on the road instead of the bike path located on the side of the road.
Caicedo explained to the press that Julián was “a high-performance cyclist”, so in training he had to ride at higher speeds, which could not be reached on cycle paths.
“The bike paths are not suitable for these speeds. People walk on the bike paths taking their dog for a walk, on soft bikes. You can’t do competitive cycling on bike paths,” he declared.
“We have to use the roads and on the drivers… there are many who get angry when they see cyclists and leave the car within 50 centimeters of a bicycle. Every day we are in danger riding a bicycle.”
The truck driver has been detained on a possible manslaughter charge but has been released as investigations continue.
‘He had the dream of being a great sportsman’
Caicedo said that he and his nephew became very close friends through cycling.
“I wanted him to fulfill his dreams. He asked me things about cycling, I taught him. We had a lot of fun. That’s how we were yesterday, when the accident occurred,” he said.
“He was a child who had the dream of being a great sportsman. And he had everything to be,” declared the boy’s relative.
In Egan Bernal’s home town, Zipaquirá, artists Emerson Cáceres “Cacerolo” and Luis Carlos Cifuentes painted a mural in 2019 after the Colombian cyclist’s victory. Little Julián Esteban Gómez appears beside him, weeping with joy.
“Fly high, little friend,” Cifuentes wrote as he shared a video of the time they completed the mural on Sunday.
Colombian President Iván Duque also lamented the boy’s death. “We accompany their families in prayer and send a message of solidarity,” he wrote on his Twitter.