According to reports from French and italian press, kazakh rider Andrei Kivilev (Cofidis) has died on Wednesday morning in Saint-Etienne hospital, due to the head injuries he sustained yesterday, when the man, not wearing an helmet, crashed with 40 km. to the finishing line of stage two stage two of the Paris-Nice race, along with team-mate Marek Rutkiewicz of Poland and Gerolsteiner's German Volker Ordowski (neither of which suffered major injuries). Kivilev was instead diagnosed with a fractured skull and two broken ribs.
The 29-year-old, who turned a pro in 1998 with Festina and got his most significant result when (besides two stage wins, both in the year 2001) he came close to hit the Paris podium in the 2001 Tour de France, when he finished fourth after losing third place to Beloki only in the penultimate day's ITT, had immediately gone into a coma, and his conditions worsened during the night. Cofidis' directors said the team would continue in the race.
Born in Talcycorgan, Kazakhstan (then Soviet Union), on September 20th, 1973, Kivilev started riding in Spain as an amatiuer, later moved to France where he wore the EC Saint-Etienne jersey, then spent his first two years as a pro in the Festina ranks, moved to Prévoyance in 2000, and signed with Cofidis in 2001. The same year he won Stage 5 of Dauphiné Liberé (Romans-sur-Isère - Grenoble,
151 km.) by taking a small bunch sprint ahead of Sven Montgomery, Salmon and Tonkov, and the Route du Sud Overall ahead of Jens Voigt and Raimondas Rumsas.
His presence on the famous stage-eighth (Colmar-Pontalier) breakaway of the 2001 Tour, when the Kazakh and thirteen more riders went clear and managed to put more than half an hour into the bunch at some point, turned him into one of the main protagonists of the "Grande Boucle, later won by Lance Armstrong ahead of Ullrich and Beloki.
Kivilev also finished fourth overall in last year's Paris-Nice, less than a minute down to the winner, fellow Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov. But the man climbed onto the podium as he was part of the Cofidis line-up that won the Teams Classification.
The Daily Peloton staff extend their deepest condolences to Kivilev's family and friends, and all cycling fans affected by this tragedy.
LAST UPDATE: Stage 3 of the competition has been neutralised: participants actually took the start in Le Puy-en-Velay after 1 minute of silence, and they are supposed to cover the full, 192-km. distance to Pont du Gard, but have decided to turn the stage into a "procession", a tribute to the memory of Kivilev, just like the peloton did in the 1995 Tour de France stage following the tragical death of Fabio Casartelli in an accident bearing some striking resemblances to Kivilev's.
The Cofidis website has the simple message: “Cofidis en deuil” (Cofidis in mourning) and this sad announcement:
“It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the death of Andreï Kivilev in the hospital Bellevue in Saint Etienne. The victim of a severe head injury following a fall during the second stage of the Paris Nice, Andreï Kivilev was immediately taken to the Saint Chamond hospital before being transferred to the Saint Etienne intensive care unit of professor Zéni.
"The 1,700 workers of Cofidis are in a state of shock. Andreï Kivilev was a model professional which was recognized by the peloton, and he was a man renowned for his kindness, his humility, his strength and his loyalty. He lost his life as he carried out his profession. His loss will inspire respect and meditation from us all.
"Our thoughts turn naturally to Natalia, the young wife of Andreï, and their little boy Léonard. Cofidis have already made provisions to give them personal and material support during these tragic moments.
"The riders of the Cofidis Team are deeply shocked by the loss of their team mate; they will be joined this afternoon by Alain Bondue, their general manager. They have decided to continue the race in order to honour the sport and passion of their team mate and friend."