Ten years since the fatal crash, Wouter Weylandt's partner An-Sophie and daughter Alizée have built a secure life away from the hectic world of pro sports
An-Sophie De Graeve was 24 weeks pregnant when her partner Wouter Weylandt lost his life at the Giro d’Italia. The tragedy would alter the course of her life. Ten years later An-Sophie and their beaming daughter Alizée live a quiet life far removed from the crosswinds of pro cycling. “If Wouter’s accident has taught me anything, then it’s to be happy with what you have rather than be unhappy with what you don’t.”
Let’s talk about Alizée first. Nine years old and full of life. Headstrong by all accounts. Athletic and adored. Uninformed about the details of her father’s fate, at least for now.
“I have a large folder prepared for the day she’d like to know more about Wouter,” says An-Sophie. “Not just about his accident, but about all kinds of things. She doesn’t ask about him often, she’ll do it at her own pace. She knows he was a bike racer, and every year around the anniversary of his death she’ll see some of the newspaper stories or something but it’s not really on her radar overall.”
Wouter’s death is top of mind for An-Sophie, but much less than it used to be. She’s come to peace with what happened. Moved on, as harsh as that may seem. She is a strong, no-nonsense woman with her eyes on the road ahead. She works as an in-house support person for the elderly, so seniors can remain at home longer. She ran her own small childcare business for a few years, but it wasn’t compatible with life as a single mom.
“I have had many different emotions in the last ten years. I was never alone for the first weeks and months after the funeral. My sister, or one of my friends, was always staying at the house. I would go to the cemetery every day. Then, close to my due date, I had some Braxton Hicks contractions, which are false labor pains, and was sped off to the hospital. Right there I fully realized it would be on me, and on me alone, to raise our daughter, and I couldn’t linger in grief any longer. I had to be strong for her.”
Wouter and An-Sophie knew they were having a girl, but they hadn’t settled on a name for the baby. They each had a list of names, and Alizée happened to be on both. It’s a sparkling name that suits her. Alizée ’s smile goes from ear to ear, just like Wouter’s did.
“I’m not sure if she looks like Wouter. A lot of people think she does. I’m probably too close to her to see it. She certainly has his appetite for life but also his stubbornness. As a toddler, she demanded a lot of attention. Often she was testing me, it wasn’t an easy time. Luckily I am able to count on the Weylandt family for help, Wouter’s parents Eric and Nele foremost, but also Wouter’s sister Elke (Trek-Segafredo’s Operations Manager) and her family. They were always there for me and still are. Once the pandemic is over, I hope we can return to our weekly dinners.”
If Wouter’s death has taught me anything then it’s to be happy with what you have rather than be unhappy with what you don’t.
Though Wouter tragically disappeared from their life, An-Sophie chooses to raise Alizée in a happy-go-lucky way. “She’s naturally a carefree, cheerful kiddo. I don’t want to burden her, be over-protective or constantly shadow her every move. That wouldn’t help anyone.”
Ten years after Wouter’s death, pro cycling is no longer a part of An-Sophie’s everyday life. As the COVID pandemic rages on, Alizée and An-Sophie are staying safe in the house she bought with Wouter, near Ghent in Belgium, and try to make the best of the time together, in their two-person bubble.
“What happened to Wouter is tragic, but I don’t want it to determine the outcome of our lives,” says An-Sophie in a very matter-of-fact way. “I don’t like people that blow small issues out of proportion and get hung up on them. You are in control of your own life, so make the best of it. If Wouter’s death has taught me anything then it’s to be happy with what you have rather than be unhappy with what you don’t.”