Rab Wardell, 37, a professional mountain biker and former employee of Scottish Cycling, has passed away in his sleep, only two days after securing the national championship.
Rab Wardell at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
In the Elite Men’s MTB-XC, Lewis Martin tore out of the blocks and would take the race to Rab Wardell and the rest of the strong field. But coming round on lap two the Studio Velo rider had a gap on the rest of the field, and Wardell, with a rear puncture, was back in a group containing the youngsters who would battle it out for the Junior Men’s title.
A quick change and a chase back through the field and there was a second puncture for the Wahoo rider, but at this point, it looked like his chances were slipping away. However, Rab managed to change his luck with quick thinking and sheer will.
Martin was out front at this point, as Wardell changed wheels again, but he knew that if he could stay close then he might be able to take advantage later in the race. And so it proved as he caught up with Martin on the penultimate climb and then held off Oakley in the sprint to take the victory.
After the hard battle and several punctures, Wardell won the elite men's title at Kirroughtree Forest in Dumfries & Galloway on Sunday. His victory was described as a "show of incredible resilience" by British Cycling.
Scottish Cycling confirmed on Tuesday evening that Wardell had died in his sleep. Wardell appeared on BBC Scotland’s The Nine program on Monday evening to talk about his victory on Sunday. Wardell passed less than 24 hours later. Wardell's partner, the track cyclist Katie Archibald, tweeted on Wednesday that he had suffered a cardiac arrest on Tuesday.
The former amateur cross country racer had also competed in the 2006 and won numerous titles including bronze in the British XC Championships and national titles in 4 different disciplines -- XC, cyclocross, criterium, and TTT. A statement from Scottish Cycling confirmed Wardell's passing, saying, "We are devastated to confirm the news that international mountain biker & former employee, Rab Wardell, has passed away today... We send our love & support to his family, friends & all those in our community who knew him."
Most importantly, Scottish Cycling added, “We ask that you respect Rab’s family’s privacy at this incredibly sad time.”