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GENOA, Italy (VN) — The Giro d’Italia mourned the death of Wouter Weylandt (Leopard-Trek) by riding the 216km fourth stage from Genoa to Livorno without contesting the sprint.
The mood was somber in Genoa on Tuesday morning as riders and teams gathered along the seafront of the historic port after universal agreement that the Giro should continue despite Weylandt’s tragic death on Monday.
There was none of the joviality and light-heartedness that typically accompanies the atmosphere at the start of a Giro stage. Race officials decided to not play the loud, flashy music at the sign-in podium. Riders gathered in small groups or stayed hidden inside team buses.
The Leopard-Trek team bus and vehicles were behind a cordoned-off area separated by fencing provided by Giro officials to allow the team to confront the stage without the bustle of journalists and curious onlookers crowding in. Riders and team officials filed in one at a time to offer condolences to the Leopard-Trek riders and staff.
“Everyone was saddened by what happened, but everyone agreed to follow the wishes of the team,” said BMC sport director Max Sciandri. “Leopard-Trek and Weylandt’s family wanted the stage to continue and we respected their wishes. This is hard on everyone. I had guys on my team in tears. It’s part of the risk riders take every day.”
David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) decided to wear the pink jersey in part to honor the memory of Weylandt.
Millar called the Leopard-Trek team this morning to ask them how they wanted to handle the stage. Riders said they wanted to ride the stage in honor of Weylandt. His girlfriend and mother, who traveled to Italy overnight, also agreed that the stage should be held in honor of the fallen Belgian.
Millar then passed the word around to the other squads in the peloton, agreeing that the stage would be neutralized, but that they would ride the course as a tribute.
“This is not a day to be fighting for position, but we do need to get to the finish as quickly as possible. We ride in tribute to Wouter,” Millar said. “What we do is very dangerous. This can happen every single day we race. That’s how crazy this sport is.”
Teams lined up at the start line in Genoa, beginning with a moment of silence to honor the Belgian rider. Teams agreed that they would ride at the front for 10 kilometers each, with Leopard-Trek getting the honors of crossing the line first.