Riders taking part in the Giro d'Italia are today to pay a moving tribute to fellow racer Wouter Weylandt, who died in a crash yesterday. Weylandt's Leopard Trek team-mates are to be allowed to cross the finish line ahead of the peloton in a stage dedicated to his memory.
“This is not a day for fighting for positions,” pink jersey wearer David Millar explained before the start in Genoa. The teams will take it in turns to pace the peloton for 10km at a time at speed of 37-40kph. With 1km to go, Millar will give the signal to the remaining eight Leopard Trek riders to move to the front.
After the stage, there will be no post-race protocol or jersey presentations. Instead, the Leopard Trek riders will come on to the podium as part of a further dedication to Weylandt’s memory. There were moving scenes before the start in Genoa. A special fenced-off space was reserved for the Leopard Trek team bus, and riders filed through one by one to offer condolences to the team’s riders and staff.
Leopard Trek manager Brian Nygaard explained that his team were continuing in the race at the behest of Weylandt’s family, who travelled from Belgium on Monday evening. “From our point of view, it was very important to start, both because it was the request of the family and because it was important for the team,” he said.
The Leopard Trek contingent were the last to make their way to the start line, and they were warmly applauded by riders and spectators alike as they made their way to the front of the peloton. A moment’s silence was observed and a military band played a bugle tribute to the late Weylandt, before the peloton set off with a heavy heart on the road to Livorno.
Weylandt crashed yesterday on the descent of the Passo del Bocco and despite immediate medical assistance, he died from his injuries. Fellow riders and race officials have been quick to pay tribute – you can read a full report on Cyclingnews.
One man hit particularly hard by Wouter's death is fellow Ghent resident Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo), who said last night: "I'm 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've 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'll remember him always, and will always strive to do him proud, as he's always done for the sport and people he loves."
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.