‘Earthquakes’: Teen cyclist death triggers outpouring of grief
THE TIGHT-KNIT Cairns cycling community is plotting a course through grief and despair after one of its most dedicated young members was killed in a horrific crash.
Luke Azzopardi was something of a child prodigy on the road bike - a gifted former state champion who had been selected to join a prestigious cycling development team in Europe before COVID-19 hit.
The whole world lay ahead of him until his life was cut tragically short on Lake Morris Road on Wednesday evening.
The 19-year-old Gordonvale man was declared dead at the scene, but those who knew him were adamant his legacy would live on.
"He was a dedicated young man, respectful in every way and much loved around the club," Cairns Cycling Club president James Mort said.
"The earthquakes going through the club at the moment are immense."
Back in 2013, Mr Azzopardi was the youngest rider in the Ride for Isabel - a charity event established by Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt and his wife Kerry to honour the memory of their daughter and raise awareness and funds for stillbirth and neonatal death support.
He became a fixture of the event over the years, and someone for whom Mr Pitt had huge respect.
"Luke was a really special young bloke," Mr Pitt said.
"What was amazing about him was that he was a really mature young man who would step up and do jobs without ever being asked.
"He was a very, very responsible man and extremely respectful of people, and I don't just mean the adults.
"He had amazing manners, and manners can take you a long way in life."
The Cairns Post interviewed Mr Azzopardi when he was just 16. At that stage, he was already training 8-10 hours per week, and up to 15 hours in the lead-up to competitions.
He competed in all types of races including time trials and criteriums but said the road race was definitely his preferred event as it "requires as much mental dedication as it does physical".
He hoped to race professionally but recognised the immense level of dedication and hard work it would take.
"Professional riders sit a world above others and as much as I would like to get there, it is not always possible," he said.
"If I was given the opportunity, I would definitely take it."
Beyond the competitive nature of the sport, it was its freedom that Mr Azzopardi really loved.
"It gives me the ability to escape for a couple of hours and be by myself," he said.
"It gives me time to think and clear my mind.
"The challenges it presents and the good pain it produces is also something I enjoy.
"The ability to go for an hour ride up the Gillies and then fly down faster than the cars in less than half the time makes it worthwhile."
Townsville cyclist Stephen Lane took to social media on Thursday morning to pay tribute to the young man.
"I find this news incredibly hard to say," he wrote.
"Last night at around 6.10pm, an incredibly talented young junior in Cairns named Luke Azzopardi was killed in a training accident.
"Luke was an incredibly liked young man, tall in stature, calm in nature but fierce in riding skill and talent.
"Luke, may the wind forever the at your back. You were one of the good ones mate."
The Cairns Cycling Club will likely organise a get-together at the new clubhouse on Sunday morning to go for a gentle bunch ride in honour of Mr Azzopardi.
"Then we'll come back to the club and have some coffee, share some stories and some silence for Luke," Mr Mort said. "It is such a close community. It really is awful."
Originally published as 'Earthquakes': Teen cyclist death triggers outpouring of grief