Two days after achieving his big sporting goal of becoming Scottish MTB XC national champion, Rab Wardell passed away in his sleep Tuesday, plunging the cycling world into shock and mourning.
“We are devastated to confirm the news that international mountain biker and former employee, Rab Wardell, has passed away today,” Scottish Cycling said in a statement Tuesday.
“We have very little information at this stage, but we send our love and support to his family, friends, and all those in our community who knew him. We ask that you respect Rab’s family’s privacy at this incredibly sad time.”
His partner Katie Archibald, an Olympic gold medallist on the track, confirmed the news Wednesday.
“I think you’ve heard that Rab died yesterday morning,” she wrote on social media. “I still don’t understand what’s happened; if this is real; why he’d be taken now – so healthy and happy.
“He went into cardiac arrest while we were lying in bed. I tried and tried, and the paramedics arrived within minutes, but his heart stopped and they couldn’t bring him back. Mine stopped with it. I love him so much and need him here with me. I need him here so badly, but he’s gone. I can’t describe this pain.
“I can’t bear to talk about him in the past tense to say anything myself. You mean everything to me, Rab. I love you.”
Wardell represented Scotland at international level, competing in road and MTB events. The 37-year-old returned to racing this year. Only two days before his death he claimed his first elite Scottish national MTB XC title at the MTB XC championships in Kirroughtree Forest, Dumfries and Galloway, on Sunday, overcoming several punctures to win on the final lap.
British Cycling described his win as a “show of incredible resilience.”
Wardell spoke about that victory on social media after Sunday’s race.
“It’s taken a few years but I can add the Senior Cross Country title to the Junior and U23 ones I won nearly 2 decades ago. In all honestly, a shocking race from me with 3 punctures, but stoked to be able to take the win.”
On Monday night he appeared on BBC Scotland show The Nine to discuss the victory.
The Scottish Cross Country Association, the organizers of Sunday’s race, paid tribute to him on social media.
“He will be truly missed by our community and his determination, talent and friendship will live on in all our hearts and memories. I’m sure more eloquent words will be written by many but RIP Rab. Our champion, our inspiration, our friend.”
The six-time Olympic gold medallist, Sir Chris Hoy, tweeted: “Can’t believe this. Utterly heartbreaking. Rest in peace Rab.”
Many others from the world of cycling have also paid tribute to him.