Giro d'Italia: Bart de Clercq says Weylandt was riding with him; Etna stage gets all clear
Omega Pharma-Lotto rider dedicates victory to fallen compatriot whom he says inspired his win
Bart de Clercq, the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider who yesterday just held on to take Stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia at Montevergine di Mercogliano has revealed that it was the memory of his compatriot Wouter Weylandt that gave him the inspiration to make his final push for the line. Meanwhile, organisers have said that tomorrow's stage in Sicily is set to go ahead as planed despite renewed volcanic activity on Mount Etna earlier this week.
At 24 years of age, de Clercq, who is in his first season as a pro, is just two years younger than Leopard Trek rider Weylandt, who was killed in a crash during the descent of the Passo del Bocco on Monday’s Stage 3 into Rapallo.
Attacking 7km from the summit finish, the neo-pro managed to hold on for victory as the chasing bunch led by Lampre-ISD’s Michele Scarponi threatened to overwhelm him in the final metres, and says it was the memory of his fellow Belgian that helped inspire him to keep going.
“I thought of Wouter Weylandt,” he said after his win, quoted in La Gazzetta dello Sport. “We weren’t friends, but we knew each other well. We met in Ghent and at races. And even here at the Giro, the first day, we chatted and laughed.
“In the final 1,000 metres, when I just couldn’t do it any more, I thought of Wouter. And I’m sure that it was he who gave me the last turn of the pedal, the one that gave me victory. So, this win isn’t mine. It’s his. And I dedicate it to him.”
Meanwhile, tomorrow’s long anticipated twin ascent of Mount Etna looks set to go ahead without problem despite the resumption of volcanic activity there earlier this week.
Race director Angelo Zomegnan is due in Sicily today to personally assess the situation, but told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “The stage has never been in doubt,” despite a one-centimetre thick layer of ash covering the final seven kilometres of tomorrow’s route, which finishes at Rifugio Sapienza.
Just after the halfway point of the 169km stage, which starts in Vincenzo’s home city of Messina, the peloton will tackle another Category 1 climb on the famous volcano, up to La Lenza-Rifugio Citelli, before heading back down to Acireale ahead of the day’s second climb.
Nicola d’Agostino, chairman of the stage organising committee, likewise underlined that there was no cause for alarm and that the situation is under control. “There’s no problem, and it will certainly be a spectacular day.”
The stage will however start half an hour earlier than anticipated, at 1210 local time instead of the planned 1240. That will obviously have a knock-on effect on subsequent timings, with the stage finish likely to happen some time between 1630 and 1700 local time.
Besides tomorrow’s stage itself, the ash emanating from Etna has also caused uncertainty over the long transfer to Termoli on the Adriatic coast, where racing resumes on Tuesday after Monday’s rest day.
Catania airport reopened yesterday morning after 160 flights were cancelled the previous day as a result of ash on the runway. As things stand, the riders will be transferred by bus to Catania after the stage finish, where they will have dinner in a restaurant then board two charter flights, one leaving at 2130, the other at 2145. After landing at Pescara, they will head towards Termoli by coach.
With 2,000 people in total needing to be moved 500km, contingency plans have however been put in place should it prove impossible to use Catania airport. Those include using Palermo or Reggio Calabria airports instead, going by road via an overnight stop in the province of Cosenza where local hotels have been put on stand-by, or even chartering a special train from Trenitalia, which is also being kept informed of the situation.