Vines duathlete praised for incredible sportsmanship

Cyclist Matt Smith of The Vines with his Trek Speed Concept bicycle. Photo: David Baylis
Cyclist Matt Smith of The Vines with his Trek Speed Concept bicycle. Photo: David Baylis

PERTH duathlete Matt Smith (22) has displayed sportsmanship at its finest, sacrificing his chance to win his first professional duathlon race to help a fellow racegoer injured in a sickening crash during competition in Michigan.

Smith was at the front of the pack with three-time world champion Gael Le Bellec when the Frenchman was hit by a car during the Powerman event.

“Gael and I were leading by four or five minutes,” he said.

‘We were coming on to the second lap and overtaking other riders when a car ran over him.

“I stopped to help get him back on his bike but when he rolled over I saw how badly he was injured.

“He had a huge hole above his right knee and I could see the top of his patella and femur and that the muscle, ligaments and tendons had all been ripped off the bone.

Gael Le Bellec recovering in hospital.

“The only thing we had to use to stop the bleeding was a Starbucks napkin until the ambulance arrived 20 minutes later.”

Smith said competitors had raised concerns with event managers over the dangerous course.

“It was a shocking injury and I didn’t realise until later that Gael had also broken his arm,” he said.

“Surgeons had to staple his tendons and ligaments back together and then glue it back to his knee cap.

“His body was literally ripped apart and parts left on the road.

“Gael and I have been in touch and last I heard he was trying to walk again.

“His recovery will be slow and he may never be able to run again.”

Smith said after the ambulance took Le Bellec away he got back on his bike and finished fourth.

“It was a disappointing race for several reasons,” he said.

“I had just come into the USA having raced for Australia in the ITU World Championships in Spain.

“Four weeks prior to the worlds I rolled my ankle in a snowy race in Powerman Germany so I didn’t race well.

“But this day nothing hurt and I was racing really well.

“I had backed myself to win my first professional race.

“I’d never been up the front with Gael before so I am upset the race turned out as it did.”

The Vines cyclist has been praised across the globe for his sportsmanship and humanity.

UK rider Peter Ellis, who went on to win the Michigan race, refused to take the top spot in acknowledgment of Le Bellec’s accident and Smith’s actions to help.

Smith will next compete in the Jakarta Powerman event on June 1.