Giro stage ends in tribute

2011-05-10 18:39
Weylandt's Leopard-Trek team holding a minute of silence (AFP)

Livorno - The teammates of Wouter Weylandt crossed the finish line side by side and with their arms linked at the Giro d'Italia on Tuesday, completing a fourth stage honoring the Leopard-Trek cyclist who died in a high-speed crash.

Weylandt's close friend and training partner Tyler Farrar, who rides for Garmin-Cervelo, was invited to join the Leopard-Trek cyclists for the final part of the stage and was in tears as they rode over the line in unison. Farrar said earlier Tuesday he would pull out of the race after the stage.

"I think it has taken something out of all of us," teammate Davide Vigano said. "He was only 26 and his loss has left a big hole inside all of us."

The 26-year-old Weylandt died on Monday after falling during a descent, the first fatality in the Italian race in 25 years.

As a result, the fourth stage became a ceremonial ride with no points on offer, and teams took turns riding up front in 10-km intervals.

Teams averaged 35 kph (22 mph) and bottom-placed Euskatel-Euskadi was the first team to set the pace.

With 3 kms remaining, overall leader David Millar waved the Leopard-Trek team to the front to cross the line first.

Instead of a presentation ceremony for the winner, the Leopard-Trek team stood on the podium with Millar and the three other jersey holders to pay their respects to Weylandt after a lone bugler played a solemn tribute.

"Touching conclusion of a very emotional stage," the Leopard-Trek team wrote on their Twitter page. "Thank you to all the other teams for your support!"

A military bugler also played a tribute to Weylandt at the start, and the teams observed a minute's silence and wore black ribbons.

Before the race the Leopard-Trek bus was roped off and other riders and team staff were able to pass through to pay their condolences.

Weylandt clipped a wall and tumbled hard to the ground when going down a mountain pass at a high speed. He lay motionless and bleeding heavily on the roadside before paramedics cut off his helmet and worked for 40 minutes to resuscitate him.

"It is something none of us has ever faced before," team manager Brian Bygaar said. "We all want to keep going in the race in honor of Wouter Weylandt."

A post mortem on Tuesday showed he died of internal injuries and damage to the base of his skull.

Coroner Armando Mannucci said he died on impact and "hadn't suffered."

Weylandt's father went to the hospital in Lavagna to identify the body on Tuesday. He arrived at Milan's Malpensa airport on Monday along with Weylandt's pregnant girlfriend, Anne Sophie, and the rider's mother and sister. After leaving the hospital, the family was taken to the scene of the accident where they laid flowers.

Fellow Belgian Eddy Merckx led the tributes that continued to pour in for Weylandt.

"He was one of the best young Belgians. Unfortunately, he has lost his life, but that is part of the inherent danger of this sport and this job. In Belgium we are all sad for him and his family."

Competitive riding resumes on Wednesday with the fifth stage, a 191-km ride from Piombino to Orvieto that features a 950-meter  climb at Saragiolo.

The 21-stage Giro is due to finish in Milan on May 29.

Read more on:    giro d'italia


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