As Giro d’Italia race leader, Scot David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) helped organised a tribute to Wouter Weylandt this morning in Genova. The 26-year-old Belgian of team Leopard-Trek died during yesterday’s le
g to Rapallo.
The teams observed a minute’s silence for Weylandt and then began the 216-kilometre leg to Livorno. Each team is to ride on the front for 10 kilometres, with Leopard taking the lead before the finish.
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“This is not a day to be fighting for positions or racing for lines in the road,” Millar told Cycling Weekly. “I think we just need to get to the finish. We will go there as quickly as we can, we are not just going to roll along at 30 kilometres an hour, we will respect Wouter’s memory.”
Weylandt crashed on the descent of the Passo del Bocco with 25 kilometres to race. The others were unaware of crash, or at least its severity. Millar chased down a lead group of four men and gained enough time to take the leader’s jersey from Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad). He leads by seven seconds over Ángel Vicioso (Androni).
He became only the third Brit to win the pink jersey and the first to win one in all three Grand Tours. He said after hearing the news yesterday that he was uncertain if he’d even wear it today. This morning, however, he had it on.
Millar rode over to the Leopard team bus, which was fenced off only to allow riders in. He talked to General Manager Brian Nygaard for ten minutes and then signed in. All music and celebrations were cancelled, only the announcer called the riders names.
“It’s normal,” Millar said of the jersey. “I think the little things like this make no f**king difference, the guy’s died. I have to try to keep going and just respect his memory.
“Hopefully, we will learn from this as well. What we do is very dangerous, this can happen every single day. We are the best in the world on the bike, but even the best in the world can make mistakes.”
Millar’s Garmin team-mate Tyler Farrar signed the start sheet next. It’s likely his last time to do so for this Giro d’Italia.
“We have his best friend in our team, Tyler Farrar, and he will be going home tonight. For him it’s too much, too sad.”
Farrar is based in Ghent, Belgium, where he often trained with Weylandt and where the two became close friends. Millar said the rest of the Garmin team would continue to race, starting with tomorrow’s white gravel stage to Orvieto.
Leopard is uncertain if it will continue. Weylandt’s girlfriend, An-Sophie De Graeve asked for the team to race today. She flew in last night, stayed on the coast in Sestri Levante and today, went to place flowers on Passo del Bocco. She’s pregnant with the couple’s first baby, due in September.
Millar explained that he is already discussing a plan to take his pink jersey to Ghent for a tribute later in the year.