Giro d’Italia stage 4: Peloton rides in tribute to Weylandt
May 10, 2011 17 Comments
Racing on the fourth stage of the Giro d’Italia was neutralised following the fatal high-speed crash suffered by Leopard Trek sprinter Wouter Weylandt yesterday.
David Millar, who yesterday became the first British rider ever to lead all three Grand Tours, consulted with Weylandt’s team on behalf of the peloton this morning to determine what to do. It was agreed that the stage would be neutralised and not count towards the overall classification. Instead everyone rode in tribute to the 26-year old Belgian, with the teams taking turns at the front to ensure a sensible pace.
Millar told the press before the start:
This is not a day to be fighting for position, but we do need to get to the finish as quickly as possible. We ride in tribute to Wouter.
What we do is very dangerous. This can happen every single day we race. That’s how crazy this sport is.
Leopard Trek general manager Brian Nygaard said the team would ride the stage in accordance with the wishes of Weylandt’s girlfriend An-Sophie De Graeve, who is expecting their first child in September, but that he would allow individual riders to make their own decisions about whether ot not to continue after that.
In a subdued atmosphere before the start the riders, each wearing a black armband, observed a minute’s silence and a military band played a bugle tribute. To share the workload, each team pulled at the front of the peloton for 10km in reverse order of the team classification, with the Garmin-Cervélo team of maglia rosa Millar taking the final turn. Leopard Trek rode the final kilometres to the finish together at the head of the peloton, just as the Motorola team of Fabio Casartelli did at the Tour de France in 1995. They were joined at the front by Garmin’s Tyler Farrar, a close friend of Weylandt. The line of nine riders crossed the finish with their arms around each other to the applause of a substantial crowd.
Instead of the traditional jersey presentations after the stage, the Leopard Trek riders took to the podium for a further dedication to Weylandt.
Farrar has also decided to withdraw from the race. He lives in Weylandt’s home town of Ghent during the season, and the pair were friends and training partners. In a statement last night, Farrar said:
I am unbearably saddened by the loss of Wouter today. As many know, he was my friend, training partner, and in many ways, another brother to me. His death marks an irreparable change in my life but more importantly, in the lives of his family and most loved.
Wouter was one of the kindest, funniest, and most admirable people I have ever had the opportunity to know and his death is a tragedy to his family, his friends, and to the sport as a whole. I can only convey my deepest of sympathies to everyone who cared about him as deeply as I did, especially his family, his friends, his team and his fans – we celebrate his life and mourn his death in equal measure.
Wouter was and is the soul of this sport we all love – an athlete who sacrificed himself for the better of many and a champion who celebrated each glory as a victory for his family, his team, and his friends and fans.
I will remember him always, and will always strive to do him proud, as he has always done for the sport and people he loves.
Racing resumes tomorrow with stage five, a medium mountain stage of 191km from Piombino to Orvieto. The route includes two third-category climbs and a steep 600-metre kick-up with a maximum gradient of 12% two kilometres from the finish. This could favour a breakaway group or an attack by a punchy climber such as Euskaltel-Euskadi‘s Igor Antón, who has stated that his main focus for the race is stage victories rather than the overall.
After today’s introspection, the Giro goes on. Chapeau, Wouter.
Giro d’Italia recaps