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Team Wanty-Groupe Gobert will return to race for the first time after Antoine Demoitié's death resulting from a Ghent-Wevelgem crash last Sunday. The Belgian team will race the Tour of Flanders on Sunday "after a very hard week."
Demoitié died in the early hours Monday morning at the hospital in Lille, France. The 25-year-old Belgian crashed 150km into the Ghent-Wevelgem classic and was hit by a jury motorbike afterwards.
"It was a very hard week," sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren said. "The preparations for the Ronde didn't go as planned, unfortunately.
This Wednesday we did a long training together and I think it was good for the guys. After that I spoke with some riders individually as well because some of them have not only lost their teammate Antoine but also their friend Daan Myngheer.
"It was the right decision not to ride in De Panne and the races in France this weekend. But on Sunday we race. The only thing we can do for Antoine and also for Daan is get a result to make them proud."
The team sat out of the Three Days of De Panne and French race Route Adéie de Vitré, where the Demoitié was due to race next.
Instead, eight riders will make Wanty's race return in Flanders: Marco Marcato, Jérôme Baugnies, Dimitri Claeys, Björn Thurau, Tom Devriendt, Frederik Backaert, Kévin Van Melsen and Kenny Dehaes.
Kévin Van Melsen plans to escape for his late teammate. Demoitié's first WorldTour race as a professional was the E3 Harelbeke last Friday, where he spent around 100 kilometres in a breakaway.
"It is not easy to think about racing but now I know for sure that I will be able to say goodbye to Antoine on Monday, I am twice as motivated for Sunday's race," Van Melsen said.
"I want to be part of the breakaway with Antoine on my mind. I want him to be proud of me and proud of us up there."
The race covers 255.9 kilometres and 18 climbs, which for Wanty will be forever linked to Demoitié. "
His last race on Friday was over those iconic climbs in Flanders," team manager, Jean-François Bourlart said on Monday. "Just as his sports director asked him, he attacked and rode free in his first WorldTour race."
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