Only two days after becoming the Scottish XC Champion, Rab Wardell passed away from a cardiac arrest in his sleep at the age of 37.
On Sunday, Wardell won the Scottish XC Championship which was held in Kirroughtree Forest in Dumfries and Galloway – a meaningful result for the rider who had won at the junior and U23 levels almost two decades previously. Wardell had gone on to appear on BBC Scotland’s The Nine on Monday evening to talk about his victory the day before.
In a statement on Twitter (opens in new tab), Scottish Cycling confirmed Wardell's passing on Tuesday evening.
“We are devastated to confirm the news that international mountain biker and former employee, Rab Wardell, has passed away today,”
Wardell’s partner Katie Archibald, who is a highly decorated track cyclist, also spoke out on Twitter in a heartfelt series of tweets confirming that Wardell had suffered a 'cardiac arrest'.
"I think you've heard that Rab died yesterday morning. I still don't understand what's happened; if this is real; why he'd be taken now – so healthy and happy," she tweeted.
She went on to write, “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.”
Wardell was a naturally talented bike rider who was able to turn his hand at any discipline. Recently turning pro, he has been a multi-disciplinary racer since the early 2000s. Alongside his Junior and U23 Scottish XC titles, he was a former Commonwealth Games cyclist and set a new record time for completing the West Highland Way (opens in new tab) in 2020.
His return to racing was documented by Wahoo, who was one of his sponsors, in a YouTube series called ‘Old Enough To Know Better’ which had just launched the first episode of its second season
While bike racing is often seen as a young person’s sport, Wardell was an inspiration, proving that with passion and dedication great things are still possible no matter your age.
“I often say that ‘I don’t get older, I get better...’ I say this because I believe that as I age I learn how to live a better life. When I was younger I was clueless. I still sort of am, I guess, but I’m better than I was. And when it comes to riding a bike, which is my greatest passion and a significant part of who I am, I think I am actually the best I’ve ever been,” he said in a CHPT3 blog post (opens in new tab).
Rab Wardell was a truly inspirational rider who will be missed greatly in the mountain bike scene. Our condolences to those who knew and were close to Rab.