Today's third stage of the Giro d'Italia was overshadowed by a terrible crash that claimed the life of Wouter Weylandt of Leopard Trek on the descent of the Passo del Bocco. The Belgian was treated at the scene and Adrenaline and cardiac massage were administered, but it has now been confirmed that Weylandt died from his injuries. The thoughts of everyone here at road.cc are with his family, friends and team.
"Despite immediate treatment, there was nothing we could do", said doctor on the scene Giovanni Tredici; certainly the paramedics were at the scene very quickly. As a mark of respect to Weylandt there was no podium celebration.
After the stage Leopard Trek issued this statement:
""Today, our team mate and friend Wouter Weylandt passed away after a crash on the 3rd stage of the Giro d’Italia.
"The team is left in a state of shock and sadness and we send all our thoughts and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Wouter.
This is a difficult day for cycling and for our team, and we should all seek support and strength in the people close to us,"
In the race itself one Briton replaced another in the leader's pink jersey, as David Millar of Garmin Cervelo took over from Mark Cavendish after bridging across to the day's decisive break to claim second place on the stage. Yesterday's Maglia Rosa wearer Mark Cavendish (HTC Highroad) fell off the pace as he looked to suffer in the heat on the final climb of Madonna delle Grazie, and by the time he crested he was more than a minute down as fellow Manxman Peter Kennaugh of Sky pushed on at the front. Four riders – Vicioso (Androni Giacottoli), Lastras Garcia (Movistar), Moreno (Katusha) and Le Mevel (Garmin Cervélo) managed to break from the peloton on the descent to build up a 20-second lead.
David Millar shot from the peloton with 4km to go to try and breach the gap to the break and took just 1,500m to solo to the front group and join his team-mate Le Mevel, as the peloton appeared to have given up the chase settling instead for a sprint for sixth
Two more riders – Bram Tankink of Rabobank and Jerome Pineau of Quick Step – attempted to sneak across under the flamme rouge but too late, as Le Mevel tried to lead out Millar. Vicioso though came underneath him at the last corner to take the win ahead of the Scot.
Millar may not have got the stage but his clever ride did earn him the maglia rosa… that though paled in to insignificance as the news broke that Weylandt had been killed. The new race leader was simply handed the pink jersey after the stage finish. "It means nothing," the Garmin-Cervelo rider said. "I can't even imagine what his family are going through, it's terrible."
The riders were only told what had happened once the stage was done. Although medics battled to save him for 40 minutes at the crash site, it now seems clear from what witnesses have said that the Belgian rider probably died instantly when he fell.
As yet no cause has been found for what happened; some early reports suggest that Weylandt's left pedal may have locked or caught a wall, but so far there has been no confirmation of this. Any loss of control on such a fast, technical descent was likely to have potentially devastating results - that the peloton were hitting high speeds as they came off Passo del Bocco was evident by the fact that at times the motorcycles accompanying the race appeared to be having trouble keeping out in front of the lead group. There had already been a crash on a hairpin some 10km back up the descent.
While it will never be any comfort to Wouter Weylandt's family or team mates, or indeed all the riders in this year's race who will have to climb back on a bike tomorrow, deaths in professional cycling are mercifully rare given the risks involved. Fabio Casartelli was the last rider to die in a grand tour in 1995 when he was killed near the foot of the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet during stage 15 of the Tour de France. However today's events at the Giro once again underline the very fine safety tolerances within which cycling at the highest level operates.
No doubt their will be questions for the Giro organisers to answer regarding the safety of the race. This won't be the first time in recent years that such questions have been asked. Back in 2009 the riders protested about safety on the race when the Spanish cyclist Pedro Horrillo, then riding for Rabobank, broke his thigh bones, kneecap, and neck, and punctured a lung when he plunged 60 metres in to a ravine after crashing through a guard rail on a descent during stage 8. The crash ended his career as a professional cyclist.
Before this edition of the Giro had started some riders had already voiced concerns about some of the descents on the final mountain stages - with Alberto Contador asking, with one eye on what had happened to Horrillo, whether the organisers would be installing catch fencing on some of the hairpins.
In a dreadful coincidence tomorrow would have been the first anniversary of the biggest victory of Wouter Weylandt's career when he won stage 3 of last year's Giro d'Italia.
Top 20 Giro d'Italia Stage 3
1. Angel Vicioso Arco AND 3:57:3 0:00 20" 2. David Millar GRM 0:00 12" 3. Pablo Lastras Garcia MOV 0:00 6" 4. Daniel Moreno KAT 0:00 5. Christophe Le Mevel GRM 0:00 6. Brak Tankink RAB 3:57:50 0:12 7. Jerome Pineau QST 0:12 8. Sach Modolo COG 3:57:59 0:21 9. Fabio Tabore AQS 0:21 10. Matteo Montaguti AGR 0:21 11 Davide VIGANO Davide LEO 0:21 12 Sergey LAGUTIN VCD 0:21 13 Alessandro PETACCHI LAM 0:21 14 Mikael CHEREL ALM 0:21 15 Jan BAKELANDTS OLO 0:21 16 Murilo Antonio FISCHER GRM 0:21 17 Gerald CIOLEK QST 0:21 18 Jackson RODRIGUEZ AND 0:21 19 Matteo CARRARA VCD 0:21 20 Inaki ISASI FLORES EUS 0:21
Top 20 on General Classification after Stage 3
1 David MILLAR GRM 10:04:29 0:00 2 Angel VICIOSO ARCOS AND 0:07 3 Kanstantsin SIVTSOV THR 0:09 4 Marco PINOTTI THR 0:09 5 Craig LEWIS THR 0:09 6 Christophe LE MEVEL GRM 0:12 7 Alessandro PETACCHI LAM 0:13 8 Pablo LASTRAS GARCIA MOV 0:18 9 Yarosla POPOVYCHv RSH 0:19 10 Tiago MACHADO RSH 0:19 11 Philip Deignan RSH 0:19 12 BramTANKINK RAB 0:26 13 Jan BAKELANDTS OLO 0:29 14 Vincenzo NIBALI LIQ 0:31 15 Fabio SABATINI LIQ 0:31 16 Valerio AGNOLI LIQ 0:31 17 Eros CAPECCHI LIQ 0:31 18 Jussi VEIKKANEN OLO 0:31 19 Michele SCARPONI LAM 0:33 20 Murilo Antonio FISCHER GRM 0:33
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.