Woman who recently signed with San Luis Obispo pro-cycling team dies in South Africa

A South African cyclist who recently signed with San Luis Obispo-based profession cycling team HTC-Highroad was killed while on a training ride in her native country.

According to news reports, 23-year-old Carla Swart was training Wednesday in the central Free State province when she turned into the path of an advancing truck.

The Times of India reported that Swart, after dropping her cycling computer, looked over her shoulder to check if the road was clear, and made a U-turn that put her in the path of the oncoming truck.

She had apparently looked over her left shoulder, as one would if cycling in the United States, instead of the right. In South Africa, vehicles drive on the left.

HTC released a short statement on its website: “Carla, in such a short time you became part of our family and touched us all with your vibrant personality and your constant smile. You infected us with your zest for life and we will forever have you in our hearts. Our wishes go out to Carla’s family and loved ones.”

Photos of Swart and short tributes were also posted at www.highroadsports.com/.

Swart was born in South Africa but moved to the U.S. at age 15. She attended Lees-McRae College in North Carolina with joint scholarships in cycling and running, according to her profile on the team’s website.

In 2008, she secured collegiate championships in mountain biking, track, cyclocross and road racing, and has taken 19 national titles overall.

“I think she would have been the greatest cyclist in our history if she had lived,” CyclingSA director Hendrik Lemmer told The Associated Press.

In 2010, Swart captured the Best Young Rider’s award in the Tour de L’Aude stage race in France, won the sprinter’s jersey in the Cascade Classic in the USA and clinched bronze in both the national time trial and road titles in South Africa, according to HTC.

Swart had signed a deal for a full-time professional contract with the HTC team for 2011. Members of the cycling team wore black armbands Thursday during a race in Australia, The Times of India reported.

-- Cynthia Lambert