The Frenchman confirmed reports that the Belgian rider was hit by a race official’s motorbike after four riders crashed together on the left hand side of the road. Jurdie immediately realised the accident was serious and saw Demoitié lying in a fetal position but confirmed that a race ambulance was quickly on the scene.
“I waited until the morning to go to the l’Equipe website to read about Antoine Demoitié’s death. On my way home I didn’t want to have confirmation of what I already suspected,” Jurdie explained emotionally to French newspaper l’Equipe.
“We were three cars behind the group. It wasn’t a particularly nervous point in the race and we were spread out on the road. We didn’t stop but we immediately saw the panic on the faces of the people there. We checked one of our riders wasn’t involved and continued in the race. The ambulance was just behind us but we knew it was a dramatic situation.”
According to several reports, the four riders involved in the crash were Demoitié, Jonas Ahlstrand (Cofidis) of Sweden, Italy’s Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida) and one other misidentified as Demoitiés teammate Simone Antonini, who actually crashed earlier in the race.
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Demoitié was initially taken to hospital in Ypres, before being quickly transferred to the intensive care unit of the university hospital in Lille due to the gravity of his condition.
After Gent-Wevelgem finished on Sunday evening, the Wanty-Groupe Gobert team issued an update on social media describing Demoitié’s condition as “extremely serious” and reporting that his wife and family had come to the hospital in Lille. Shortly after midnight local time, French news agency AFP reported that Demoitié had died as a result of his injuries.
French police are investigating what happened and Jurdie is likely to be questioned like other witnesses.
“We were behind a third group of about 30 riders who were chasing to get back on. I remember that we’d just passed Cassel and that there was a three-quarter tail wind. It was slightly down hill and so the speed must have been about 70km/h,” Jurdie recalled.
“I saw the guys fall, as if they’d lost their balance, they were just in front of us and went down on the left of the road. I immediately heard race radio shout: 'Crash! Crash!' But in the space of a second I saw a motorbike hit the riders. The motorbike pilot didn’t have time to brake. It was a race official motorbike. They’re there to control the race.
“Everything slowed down and I suspected that it wasn’t an ordinary accident. With Marc Accard my mechanic, we looked at what had happened in fear. We’d seen the Cofidis rider Jonas Ahlstrand get up after the crash, plus a Lampre rider I didn’t know plus two Wanty riders: Antoine Demoitié and another (Simone Antonini). I immediately noticed that the Belgian rider was in a fetal position, it was terrible.
“When you see a crash you always hope that the guys are okay but this time you could see it was serious. I would have loved not to witness it.”
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