Leopard-Trek is uncertain about its continuation in the Giro d’Italia stage race. Its eight riders may abandon ahead of fifth leg tomorrow from Piombino to Orvieto due to the death of Wouter Weylandt yesterday.
“We will meet again tonight to see what to do,” sports director, Luca Guercilena told Cycling Weekly.
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“It helps when you can work on the pain together, but we also have to understand that they are thinking about their family at home. It’s not just emotions, but it’s something on the psychological level. We will talk and find the right solution for everyone.”
The 26-year-old Belgian suffered a fatal crash yesterday on a descent heading to Rapallo on Italy’s west coast. The stage finished as normal – Ángel Vicioso won and David Millar took the leader’s pink jersey – but afterwards, doctors reported that Weylandt had died.
The Giro d’Italia continued today, but only to honour a friend, a rival, a team-mate and an expecting father. Team Leopard-Trek and Weylandt’s friend, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo), led the remaining 206 riders over the finish line. Only the sound of a hovering helicopter and fans applause filled the air.
Millar joined the other three classification leaders – Alessandro Petacchi, Jan Bakelants and Gianluca Brambilla – and the Leopard-Trek team on the stage. The organiser decorated it with the image of Weylandt winning stage three a year ago.
“To remember,” said the announcer, “their team-mate.”
They bowed their heads and honoured Weylandt as a trumpet sounded “Last Post”. Farrar rode away, shaking his head when Cycling Weekly asked him if he wanted to speak. He gave a friendly wave, a wave goodbye as he decided after talking with Millar to abandon. His pain is too much and his desire is to be with his girlfriend in Ghent.
“You never want something like that,” added Guercilena. “You think, it will never happen to me, but, unfortunately, it happened to us. We honoured him and the guys did something special today. His father [Eric] asked us to do it. He will probably pass the hotel this evening to say thanks to the riders.”
Guercilena trained Weylandt as an amateur and as a professional with Quick Step. The two decided together to leave and join Leopard-Trek for the start of this year.
“He was aiming for [a stage win yesterday], he knew without [Daniele] Bennati at the race he could have his own chances. He believed he could get another stage win.
“My memory of him will be that talk after he placed ninth in the stage the other day [Sunday]. He wanted to look over the stage to find the small mistakes, so we sit on the bus, talked lightly about it. We planned yesterday’s stage and today’s stage. He was planning everything as if he would race again.”
General Manager Brian Nygaard confirmed that the team will talk tonight to decide if it will race again in this year’s Giro d’Italia. He said a decision may come as late as tomorrow morning.
Organisers awarded his eight riders the stage win today. The prize money will go to Weylandt’s family.