Tragedy struck the professional cycling world today as Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt became the first rider to die in a major race in 16 years. 

The 26-year-old was roughly 15 miles away from the finish of the third stage of the Giro d’Italia in Rapallo, Italy, when he suffered a fall during a high-speed downhill portion of the race. According to the Washington Post, race officials say Weylandt's left pedal became stuck in a wall on the side of the road, causing him to crash. 

Medics arrived immediately on the scene to find the racer unconscious and with a fracture to the base of his skull. reports that his body was covered with a sheet and taken away by ambulance about an hour after the accident.  

"After 40 minutes of cardiac massage, we had to suspend the resuscitation because there was nothing more we could do," doctor Giovanni Tredici told media. 

Weylandt's Leopard-Track team posted a message on the team's official site expressing their grief over the tragedy. “The team is left in a state of shock and sadness, and we send all our thoughts and deepest condolences to all the family and friends of Wouter. This is a difficult day for cycling and for our team, and we should all seek support and strength in the people close to us.”

As news of Weylandt's death spread, others in the cycling community reached out. "Just back from a run and got the news of Wouter Weylandt's death today in the Giro," tweeted Lance Armstrong. "I'm shocked and saddened. May he rest in peace."

To honor Weylandt, it is expected that racers during tomorrow's fourth stage of the Giro d’Italia will perform what's called a "neutralisation" — where riders tackle the course at a slow pace and allow the teammates of the deceased to lead for the final miles.

The Giro finishes on May 29 in Milan.

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Cyclist killed in Giro d'Italia crash
Wouter Weylandt dies after fall during third stage of the famous bike race in Rapallo, Italy.