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Goodbye Jure

Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 12:53 PM

bicycle wheel bicycle wheel (Hans Hamburger/flickr)

Sad news. Jure Robic (one of the heroes of our Limits show) died in a bicycle accident on Friday, just a few miles from his home town of Jesenice, Slovenia.

Lulu Miller, who reported the story in which Jure appeared, wrote in to share some moments from the interview that did not make it into the final piece:

I interviewed Jure over the phone in Slovenia last December. We talked for nearly three hours. He was at home, his family and friends sitting around him, having drinks, eating oranges, “and cakes,” he said, “I mean… cookies.” The interview had particularly jolly tone. Occasionally Jure would pass the phone over to his crew chief Matjaz, or check in with his girlfriend about how to better phrase something in English. There was a lot of laughter. This was something I didn’t expect. I thought he’d be serious, perhaps even humorless about his unearthly capacity for endurance.

Instead, Jure was open, infectiously charming, and quick to laugh. He talked about mastering the art of peeing from his bike (those precious two minute breaks add up, he said). He lamented his crew’s music choice during his first Race Across America, “they brought along only one CD. It was Lenny Kravitz,” he groaned, “I heard that song ‘American Woman’ literally thousands of times.” He said that when he needed to be cheered up, his crew would tell him jokes. When I pressed for an example, he said he couldn’t possibly share it, “it’s too much…” he stammered, “it’s like a man’s joke” and wouldn’t say anymore. I could hear Matjaz’s thick laughter in the background.

On the December evening we talked, Jure had just finished a typical training day: running up the snow-covered mountain near his house twelve times (he had to wear boots and run with ski poles just to make it through the snow) and then a three-hour bike ride through the wind and ice. I got the feeling that Jure was truly happy when he trained. His whole life revolved around this one thing—the impulse to push himself as long and as hard as he could—nothing else brought him such meaning, such purpose. It’s rare that we know, so precisely, what we want in life. But Jure did. Perhaps this is why so many people, many complete strangers to him, have been touched and rattled by his death. (Look on comment boards on articles about his accident, on his webpage page, or facebook page; there is an outpouring of love and incredulity about his death.) I think he was a beacon, a sort of freakish example of someone so singularly living a dream.

When I asked if there were mornings where he just didn’t feel like getting up and doing it, the laughter slipped out of the room and his voice turned grave. “No,” he said, “Never. When you’re doing this, you feel alive. It fills you with this feeling…. It’s a deep feeling. I don’t know quite how to say it in English… I feel good.” He said that as he cycled it was like he was pedaling the demons away, burning them off. Thus, time spent on his bike was time he spent as a completely liberated self--free from any demons, his dark side temporarily extinguished. When I asked if he ever used anger or rage to push through the pain, again, he calmly said, “No. When it’s really tough, I’m thinking only positive things. Like my son. His smiling. The people who like me, who love me.”

Jure told me that one year his crew pulled up beside him in a van with a huge poster-sized photo of his son. He had no idea that they had made it, and he said when he saw it, he got this energy, he didn’t know from where, that allowed him to start pedaling faster than he had in hours. Seeing his son, he said, made the pain get “smaller and smaller and smaller.”

I can’t yet process that Jure Robic, a man so filled with life, is not alive anymore. But I keep thinking about how his mind worked while he was on that bike. If everything he said in the interview is true, then in his last moments, as he biked along a forested road in his beloved Slovenia, he was filled with a feeling so good words couldn’t express it, and if there was any pain at all, he would have conjured up the image of his son and his girlfriend, and they would have been there with him, as the echoes faded, making the pain diminish altogether.

 

 

 

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Comments [17]

Steve M from Morristown

As a newbie crossfitter I think of Jure often as I try and push my own limits and I try and tap into what he seemed to have a well spring of.

Beautiful words Lulu

RIP

Oct. 28 2010 02:18 PM
Maraian from New orleans

Sorry to hear this. I downloaded this episode just this past weekend for my sister to hear. It's strange to hear the day after that he's gone.

Oct. 12 2010 12:13 AM
Erin from Salisbury, NC

If you haven't had the opportunity, seek out the documentary the Limits show noted: Bicycle Dreams. Having an image of Jure's smile to ride along the side of this piece and his story in general, is absolutely priceless.

Oct. 07 2010 04:22 PM
Jacqueline DeRoo from La Center, WA

The day after listening to the Limits story, we had a litter of puppies. There seemed to be one, particularly strong, determined male in this litter, a little lighter-colored pup than the rest of the pups; We started calling him "Yuri", (I see we misspelled the name). That bike race analysis has left quite an impression on me. Thank you, Jure.

J. DeRoo

Oct. 03 2010 10:50 AM
Jarno from Helsinki

Sad to hear this - my condolences to his loved ones. I found him quite inspiring, in the brief introduction I got through the Limits episode.

Oct. 03 2010 06:08 AM
Tim Owen

I still remember his voice from that episode. What a spirit. Totally infectious. A crazy loss given that we're all still ambling about and this extreme outlier of strength and purpose and spirit is down. Really an inspirational person. What a loss.

Oct. 03 2010 01:47 AM
Cody Steineckert from Beaverton OR

I must say that the "Limits" Radiolab made me want to do the RAAM. I admire Jure for his ability to do it and overcome his natural self.

Oct. 02 2010 03:51 AM
Ida from Cph

Every death is hard on the family that stays alive. But this man.. Think about dying doing what you love, thinking about things that brings you joy and love.. I would say that is a good death..

Oct. 01 2010 04:43 PM
Jeff from Massachusetts, USA

Thank you, Jure Robic for giving your energy to the world. I'm so sorry to hear of your death. My wishes for comfort go out to your family and friends.

Thank you, Lulu for bringing us the story of this remarkable human being.

Oct. 01 2010 11:03 AM
Ronit from NY

I remember hearing the broadcast when it first aired and feeling such admiration and envy of this particular man. What an amazing gift to be able to accomplish such physical mastery and how incredibly impossible it is for me to even jog a half a mile. To think that this power house is dead is unfathomable. Lulu your final sentences say it all - at the end one can only imagine this incredible man living his life as he wanted and as he mastered to the full and final mile.

Sep. 30 2010 10:54 PM
bryce swan from pittsburgh, pa

puzzled that couldn't find obvious link to story about the white dog, charlie, lost to coyotes that I'd just heard on local npr affiliate 90.9 fm. navigating the site wasn't as direct as I had hoped

Sep. 30 2010 10:03 PM
CalorieRebel from Los Angeles, 90025

Oh Lulu, that made me cry. Especially the end, what you wrote. Thank you.

Sep. 30 2010 09:57 PM

I'm glad we got to hear from Jure and share in his Limits story before such singular uniqueness left us.

Sep. 30 2010 09:56 PM
Aaron Arreguin from chicago

oh wow...I was just listening to this episode in the morning before work. I specifically made sure to listen to it because of his story....

Sep. 30 2010 09:54 PM
Olliver from Portland :D

This show was by far my favorite part of my radiolabathon or whatever. And when I saw this, it reminded me of how strong a man could be, then to take it away like that...

Sep. 30 2010 09:10 PM
Marcus from Los Angeles, CA

Goodness me. That last bit got me good. This is one of the more eloquent written tributes I have read in a long while. Thank you for sharing this.

Sep. 30 2010 07:02 PM
Jeff from NY

I thought of this episode as soon as I saw that he died.

Sep. 30 2010 07:00 PM

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