Updated Giro d'Italia Stage 4: Peloton honours Wouter Weylandt, Leopard Trek pull out of race

Best friend Tyler Farrar joins Belgian's Leopard Trek team mates to honour dead colleague

by Simon_MacMichael   May 10, 2011  

Wouter Weylandt at Stage 3 start of 2011 Giro c Simon MacMichael.jpg

The Giro d’Italia peloton this afternoon paid its own silent and touching tribute to Wouter Weylandt, the Leopard Trek rider’s team mates and his best friend Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Cervelo crossing the line nine abreast in Livorno at the head of the race in commemoration of the Belgian sprinter who died yesterday following a high-speed crash on the fast descent of the Passo del Bocco. It was to be Leopard Trek's last act of the race, the team anouncing this evening that the riders had decided to withdraw.

Prior to the emotional arrival in Livorno, the other 22 teams had taken it in turns to set the 35km an hour pace at the front of the peloton, the order in which they undertook their 10km pace-setting duties following, in reverse, their placings on the team classification.

In other circumstances, HTC-Highroad would have been expected to figure prominently at the front of the peloton as they tried to set up Mark Cavendish for what should have been a sprint finish.

Instead, it was Garmin-Cervelo, who top the team standings, that led the peloton into the closing ten kilometres. Symbolically, the team included not just maglia rosa David Millar, but also Weylandt’s close friend and training partner Tyler Farrar, who lives in the Belgian cyclist’s native Ghent and will now take no further part in this year’s race.

In a very poignant scene, Farrar joined the eight Leopard Trek men – Brice Feillu, Dominic Klemme, Thomas Rohregger, Tom Stamsnijder, Bruno Pires, Davide Vigano, Fabian Wegmann and Oliver Zaugg – leading the peloton through the final kilometres on a day when rivalries were set apart and the riders united in their grief.

Church bells tolled as a ripple of applause came from the spectators lining the finishing straight, in keeping with the Italian custom of clapping in celebration of the life of one who has passed on.

This morning, Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that several of the team’s riders wanted it to pull out of the Giro yesterday evening. However, Weylandt’s father, who arrived in Italy today with family members to lay flowers at the site of yesterday’s tragic accident, is said to have asked them to continue to ride in order to honour his son’s memory.

However, in what must have been an agonising decision to take, the riders have determined that they cannot continue to take part in the race following the loss of their team mate yesterday, and a statement from Leopard Trek this evening confirmed that their choice to take no further part in the race had the full support of Leopard Trek's management and staff.

General manager Brian Nygaard said: “The decision needed to be taken by the riders, because they are the ones that participate in the race. We have always said that we would stand behind their choice.”

“We wish to thank the other teams, the race organisation RCS, the Italian authorities and all the fans on the road between Genova and Livorno on today’s stage, as the peloton paid tribute to Wouter Weylandt.”

Team captain Fabian Wegmann outlined the reasons behind the decision, saying: “We have a lot of respect for the Giro d’Italia and for cycling, but we simply cannot continue racing given the circumstances. We are professional athletes, but we feel this is the right thing to do.”

Meanwhile, Leopard Trek has set up a page on Facebook outlining details of a fund that has been set up to enable donations to be made to Weylandt's family. His girlfriend, Sophie, is expecting what would have been the couple's first child this September.

The choice of the Genovese suburb of Quarto dei Mille as the start of today’s stage tied in with the race’s theme of marking the 150th anniversary of Italian unification. The former fishing village had been renamed in honour of the embarkation there in 1860 of Garibaldi and his 1,000 followers.

Instead, today it was just one man who was in everyone’s thoughts as a minute’s silence preceded the stage start this morning, by coincidence a year to the day after Weylandt had won Stage 3 of the 2010 Giro in the Dutch town of Middelburg, just 50km from his home town of Ghent.

Professional cycling, of course, is not short of riders who polarise opinion, whether among fans of the sport or their colleagues in the peloton. Wouter Weylandt, however, was not one of those, with many of his fellow pros and others who knew him remarking on the cheerful disposition of someone who was popular among both the public and those who followed the same profession.

It’s often said that the Giro d’Italia unites Italy in a way that little else can, and today, as the race headed down the coast from Liguria into Tuscany, thousands upon thousands of people came out onto the streets to watch the race pass by and pay their own respects to a rider who had paid the ultimate price.

Following yesterday’s appeal by Giro director Angelo Zomegnan that the media respect Weylandt’s memory by not replaying graphic images of the aftermath of his crash, the Gazzetta dello Sport, owned like the race by RCS Media Group, unfortunately chose to use a picture showing doctors trying to revive the blood-covered cyclist.

Perhaps the decision to show that picture was made in the confusion of the story unfolding yesterday evening – on page six, the same paper praises state broadcaster RAI for cutting away from the prostrate rider as it became apparent how serious the incident was – but nevertheless, it appears an unfortunate choice of cover photo.

Elsewhere in the newspaper, the page showing the list of riders who began this year’s Giro in Saturday’s team time trial from Venaria Reale to Turin provided its own simple yet emotional reminder of yesterday’s events.

All but one of those 207 riders rode today. The one absentee, a black line struck through his name, with no further comment, was Wouter Weylandt.

Tomorrow, he will be joined by his eight team mates and best friend in the peloton.

 

9 user comments

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Thanks, Simon, for a moving piece on a sombre day.

Fran the Man

posted by Fran The Man [68 posts]
10th May 2011 - 17:56

2 Likes

Very well written, thank you. RIP.

mashedmallow

posted by Mashedmallow [5 posts]
10th May 2011 - 18:20

3 Likes

What a day...

I felt sick yesterday when I heard the news and it was impossible not to feel emotional watching the peloton in the last few km. A tragic waste of a young, talented and kind hearted guy.

RIP Wouter-I'll be writing your name in big letters at the top of Huez in July.

...  Soyez Realiste-Demandez L'impossible ...

posted by Gregoire500 [138 posts]
10th May 2011 - 18:40

3 Likes

It was beautiful to watch LTrek and Farrar crossing the line in unison today. At one point Farrar pulled back to let LTrek ride together, but they brought him back to the line. Glorius.

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing..."

Cooks's picture

posted by Cooks [491 posts]
10th May 2011 - 21:11

2 Likes

For me the worse thing here is a child will be born into the world never to know it's father.

It is tragic enough to loose your life doing your day job where you must feel the risks are minimal. We all watch crashes in cycling and wince but never believe they can take a life.

As a father my thoughts really are with his poor wife and family.

At least part of Wouter will live on.

posted by gazzaputt [183 posts]
11th May 2011 - 6:10

3 Likes

Cooks wrote:
It was beautiful to watch LTrek and Farrar crossing the line in unison today. At one point Farrar pulled back to let LTrek ride together, but they brought him back to the line. Glorius.

Farrar's humility, in wanting to let his team mates cross the line together, and Leopard-Trek's humanity in beckoning him back into the line will stay with me for a very long time.

The whole stage was a fitting tribute, from race organisers, fans, teams and riders alike. Eurosport's commentary was often moving, respectful and interspersed with tributes from teams & riders. They all honoured Weylandt's memory, and the sport itself - chapeau.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [422 posts]
11th May 2011 - 7:30

2 Likes

Fitting tribute.

I was very choked up tbh watching the closing part of the stage yesterday. Having just lost a family member myself plus having survived a horror crash that kept me off the bike for years it brought back many raw emotions.

All my sympathy to the family.

posted by Super Domestique [1626 posts]
11th May 2011 - 8:04

2 Likes

Cooks and John_the_Monkey

Excellently put. I managed to watch the last 10km via P2P on an Italian feed. Didn't understand all of the commentary but with 3km to go they said that enough words had been spoken and the rest was in silence (I suspect Harmon's commentary on EuroSport was similarly sympathetic). The last kilometre demonstrated how dignified and touched human beings can be in extremely difficult circumstances.

dullard's picture

posted by dullard [140 posts]
11th May 2011 - 15:33

2 Likes

dullard wrote:
The last kilometre demonstrated how dignified and touched human beings can be in extremely difficult circumstances.

Garmin's Team Statement said it all;

"Today, we are all teammates."

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [422 posts]
11th May 2011 - 20:00

2 Likes