Last May, tragedy struck the wider Irish cycling community as news of the passing of promising UCD Cycling Club member Gabriele Glodenyte spread amongst ears. Just 24 years of age, Glodenyte was struck by an oncoming car while out on a training session with partner Sean Landers. She was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene.

A death as shocking and upsetting as Gabriele’s, should bring to light a question of safety for cyclists on our roads. However, that seldom seems to be the case in this country. A young woman in her 20s should always have the opportunity to return home from a routine training ride, on the 27th of May, Gabriele didn’t get that chance.

The College Tribune spoke with Gabriele Glodenyte’s long-term partner of seven and-a-half years, Sean Landers. Sean opened up on Gabriele’s passing, her legacy on and off the bike, and the increasing danger of training on public roads;

“Drivers don’t seem to see the human aspect of a cyclist anymore. Gabriele was a person, she was not just a cyclist. Now all of our lives have been ruined, it’s a ripple effect.”

Tributes to Gabriele flowed from all directions in the days following the crash, as her influence within the cycling sphere became apparent. UCD Cycling stated that Gabriele’s “absence leaves an indescribable void within the cycling community and beyond. Gabby’s warmth, kindness, and eternal smile will forever be etched in our memories.”

Newry Wheelers Cycling Club announced they would honour the 2022 winner of the Newry 3-day by branding the trophy in future as ‘the Gabriele Glodenyte Memorial Cup’.

Relatively new to the competitive cycling scene, Gabriele was introduced to the world of bikes and gears during the COVID lockdown, as Sean explains;

“It wasn’t until the lockdown that she tried cycling, she had been dealing with me and my cycling for years! She had one of the most accelerated growths you’ll ever see, her first race was in 2021 and it was only an entry-level race. She didn’t quite catch the bug immediately, but she trained a lot over that Winter and fell in love with the sport.”

It wouldn’t take Gabriele long before she had begun to notch a few victories next to her name, remaining to be the humble person she was known to be however; “She turned a lot of heads in 2022, she won the National Road Series, the Newry 3-day and the Gorey 3-day.

Gabriele maximized her gifts of raw talent and coupled that with sheer dedication. No one deserved the success she achieved more than her, she worked so hard. However, she never forgot where she came from in cycling, she still spoke to the girls from the entry-level races all the time.”

As one could imagine, the devastating loss of his long-term girlfriend has more than negatively impacted his love for the sport. Sean shares his personal experience of trying to come to terms with what happened to Gabriele and his attempts to return to cycling;

“I haven’t been training that much, haven’t been riding on the roads much anymore. When you’re out on the roads, you just end up crying. Anytime a car comes close, you get that sinking feeling. I’ve seen what a car can do to a person.”

Landers goes on to highlight the lack of security afforded to cyclists in recent years;

“I’ve been cycling for ten years and have been saying it’s getting worse and worse. I remember going out one time with a friend and it felt like a kamikaze, people were coming ridiculously close to hitting us. I have definitely noticed a difference year-on-year, if these people were in a normal setting like a cafe, they’d be a lot more careful not to hit you. It’s an attitude thing for some drivers.”

Proving to be a particularly distressing year for our cyclists, 2023 has also unfortunately seen Irish-Australian cyclist Connor Lambert killed while training in Belgium. Lambert was a much-loved and respected figure in both Irish and Australian cycling.

Prominent Irish pro Megan Armitage was lucky to escape with only minor injuries as she was struck by a bus while preparing for the Tour de Femmes in Belgium. Armitage was set to make history by becoming the first Irishwoman to participate at the race, but the accident forced her out of competition.

In an Instragram post, the 27-year old described the terrifying ordeal, “Unfortunately I was hit head on by a bus yesterday during training. I was lucky and walked away completely fine.”

The purpose of this article is to not only bring forward a conversation of cyclist safety, but to also call attention to the real-world ramifications of when something does go wrong on the road. It is the people left behind who must spend a life enduring the pain of what should have been, left to suffer an unclosable gap in their days.

At the end of my phone call with Sean, I offered him the chance to include a final statement, something that readers can ponder further. This is what Sean had to say;

“Gabriele was a person, a daughter, a best friend. We had discussed our future, our plans. Her parents are now growing old without their daughter. It’s a void and we’ve had our lives ruined. Gabriele was an inspiration to people, I wanted to highlight that.”

Dara Smith-Naughton – Sports Editor