Riders of the Leopard-Trek team have decided to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia after the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt on Monday, and will not take part in Wednesday’s fifth stage.
“The decision needed to be taken by the riders, because they are the ones that participate in the race,” said Leopard-Trek general manager Brian Nygaard on Tuesday evening.
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“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.”
Leopard-Trek team captain Fabian Wegmann added: “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.”
Weylandt died of injuries resulting from a crash on the descent of Passo del Bocco 25km from Monday’s stage three finish. Race medics attended to him almost immediately and attempted to resuscitate him. He was evacuated to hospital by helicopter but was later pronounced dead.
On Tuesday, the peloton observed a minute’s silence before the start of stage four in memory of Weylandt and then rode the 216km from Quarto dei Mille to Livorno in unison, with each of the 23 teams riding at the front of the bunch in turn.
Near the finish, Weylandt’s eight Leopard-Trek team-mates rode in a line across the road alongside Weylandt’s close friend Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Cervelo. Spectators lined the route with numerous messages of support and sympathy. The team crossed the finish line arm-in-arm, many in tears at the loss of their friend and team-mate.
Farrar had already decided to leave the race after Tuesday’s stage and return home to Ghent, Belgium.
Leopard-Trek has set up a web page for those wishing to make a donation to Weylandt’s family. The 26-year-old Belgian leaves his girlfriend An-Sophie De Graeve, who is expecting the couple’s first child in September.
The 2011 Giro d’Italia is Leopard-Trek’s first grand tour. The Luxembourg-based squad formed at the end of the 2010 season and made its Worldtour racing debut at the Tour Down Under in Australia in January this year.