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Six-figure damages awarded against Swiss ex-pro cyclist who caused death of fellow rider during race

Close overtake led to crash that claimed victim's life...

A former professional cyclist found guilty of causing the death of another rider during a race has been given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay a total of 400,000 Swiss Francs (£316,000) to the family of the victim and to three other riders who were injured.

The fatal incident happened on 14 June 2014 during an amateur race held as part of Gippingen cycling week in the Canton of Aargau, northern Switzerland, reports the news website 20 minutes.

During a descent, the 52-year-old defendant, not named in the report but described as a former professional cyclist who had twice participated in the Tour de Suisse, collided with another rider he was trying to overtake, bringing him down.

Two other riders behind crashed, one of whom, a 36-year-old man from Zurich, died of his injuries that evening in hospital. The victim’s name does not appear in reports of the crash or the court case.

One witness said that the defendant was riding at 70 kilometres an hour and that there was no more than 30 centimetres between his bike and that of the rider he was overtaking.

The defendant, who has not raced since and only cycles now to get to and from work, said in court that he remembered lightly touching another rider.

In the criminal element of the case, the court found him guilty of negligent homicide, imposing a suspended sentence of one year’s imprisonment and fining him 2,000 Swiss Francs (£1,580).

Under the civil action, the court rejected the argument that he was liable for reckless homicide, saying it was out of the question that the crash had been caused deliberately.

Besides the compensation he was ordered to pay to the victim’s family and the other two cyclists who were injured, the defendant will also have to pay costs of 75,000 Swiss Francs (£59,000).

His lawyer, Raphaël Haltiner, said he would study the court’s written judgment before deciding whether to launch an appeal on his client’s behalf.

Although we’re unable to trace a UK court case dealing with a similar scenario, in such circumstances a criminal charge of causing bodily injury by wanton or furious driving would be one course of action open to prosecutors, while there would also presumably be grounds for a civil claim for negligence.

However, while British Cycling membership includes insurance for legal liability to third parties, that does not cover incidents involving “one member against another in a cycling competition, race, time trial or timed event.”

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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