Michael Goolaerts 'a great loss to cycling' - James Shaw

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Former team-mate Shaw pays tribute to Goolaerts

Belgian cyclist Michael Goolaerts, who died aged 23 after suffering cardiac arrest during Paris-Roubaix, is a "great loss to cycling", says former team-mate James Shaw.

The Veranda's Willems-Crelan rider crashed on the second set of cobbles in the one-day classic in northern France on Sunday.

He was airlifted to hospital in Lille but died at 21:40 BST.

"I'd have loved to have said thank you to him for helping me out," said Shaw.

"I never thought I'd never get that opportunity."

Briton Shaw, 21, rode with Goolaerts for the Lotto-Soudal under-23 team in 2015 and both were trainees with the Belgian outfit's senior team in 2016.

"He's a great loss to cycling," Shaw told BBC Radio 5 live's Bespoke.

"He was a cracking person, always the one to break the silence with a smile, always the one to laugh if it ever went quiet at the dinner table.

"He was one of the most pleasant people to be around I'd ever met."

Meeting Michael

Shaw, who signed a professional deal with Lotto-Soudal in 2017, first met Goolaerts at a kit-fitting day in December 2014 after both joined the under-23 squad as amateurs.

They lived nearby to each other in northern Belgium and would ride to Geel to meet up for coffee.

"His parents took me to a couple of races as well - I never used to like driving myself in case I crashed or was a bit tired to drive home," said Shaw.

"I used to meet Michael at our team base and get a lift with his parents to wherever the race was that weekend and they'd drop me back off.

"It was good to have someone like that - someone that was willing to help you when you were a young lad wandering around Belgium on your own.

"The whole family and Michael were always willing to go out of their way to help you."

Winning together

Michael Goolaerts
Goolaerts finished 16th in the Sharjah Tour in January

Goolaerts, who was riding Paris-Roubaix for the first time, had raced many of the cobbled classics and semi-classics this season, finishing ninth at Dwars door West-Vlaanderen and 20th at both Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Driedaagse De Panne.

Shaw said he was "destined" to compete in such tough one-day races, having helped Goolaerts claim an impressive victory from the breakaway in a race in France.

"As a rider, Michael definitely wasn't going to go far uphill - I'm sure he would not have minded me saying that," said Shaw.

"He was definitely destined for the flat and he was fast in the finish.

"I remember this race in France, the two of us got into the breakaway and I said to him, 'You can win in this final.' And he said, 'I can't sprint as fast as these boys,' but I told him he could.

"Someone attacked with one kilometre to go, I chased them down and took Michael into the last corner with 500m to go, led him out to about 400m to go and then he sprinted and won by a fraction of a wheel.

"We were waiting for ages for the photo finish to come through and when we found out he'd won, the two of us were over the moon.

"The things that bring people close are not just competition but the fact that we'd achieved something together."

'I'll race in his memory'

The cause of Goolaerts' cardiac arrest is not yet known.

Under the rules of cycling's world governing body the UCI, every professional rider, whether at Professional Continental or World Tour level, must undergo medical monitoring that includes heart screening.

"Every rider has to have an annual medical examination that involves an ultrasound and they measure the rhythm of your heart," said Shaw.

"I don't think anyone will ever know truly what happened. The UCI have their rules to try and prevent things like this."

Shaw added he will always think of Goolaerts when he races.

"I'll go into my next race and I'm going to empty the tank for Michael," he said.

"There will be a lot of guys out there wanting to race in memory of Michael - he was massively loved by a lot of riders.

"I'll aim to ride in his memory to show my respect to his family, friends and ultimately for him."

You can hear the full interview with James Shaw and more reaction to Michael Goolaerts' death on BBC Radio 5 live's Bespoke show on Wednesday.

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