Sombre mood as riders pay their respects at the start
The Giro d’Italia will pay a moving tribute to the late Wouter Weylandt on the road to Livorno, with his Leopard Trek teammates to cross the finish line ahead of the peloton in a stage dedicated to his memory.
Competition has no place on such a day of mourning, as the Giro and cycling at large come to terms with Weylandt’s tragic death on the descent of the Passo del Bocco on Monday.
“This is not a day for fighting for positions,” pink jersey David Millar explained before the start in Genoa.
The stage will not be contested and the peloton will stay together for the course of the 216km between Genoa and Livorno, with Weylandt’s Leopard Trek teammates to cross the line in front.
At 11.15, race director Angelo Zomegnan called a meeting of team managers at the start village in Genoa’s Piazza Kennedy, although the day’s proceedings had already been established by that point.
It was decided that the teams would take it in turns to pace the peloton for 10km at a time at speed of between 37 and 40kph. The order in which the teams are taking up the pace-setting duties is based on the reverse order of the team classification, meaning that Garmin-Cervelo will be the last team to take to the front.
With 1km to go, maglia rosa David Millar will then give the signal to the remaining eight Leopard Trek riders to move to the front and cross the line ahead of the peloton to pay tribute to their late companion.
After the stage, there will be no post-race protocol or jersey presentations. Instead, the Leopard Trek riders will come on to the podium as part of a further dedication to Weylandt’s memory.
There were moving scenes before the start in Genoa. A special fenced-off space was reserved for the Leopard Trek team bus, and riders filed through one by one to offer condolences to the team’s riders and staff.
Leopard Trek manager Brian Nygaard explained that his team was continuing in the race at the behest of Weylandt’s family, who travelled from Belgium on Monday evening.
“From our point of view, it was very important to start, both because it was the request of the family and because it was important for the team,” he said.
The Leopard Trek contingent were the last team to arrive the start line, and they were warmly applauded by riders and spectators alike as they made their way to the head of the peloton, in front of David Millar and the other classification leaders.
A moment’s silence was observed and a military band played a bugle tribute to the late Weylandt, before the peloton set off with a heavy heart on the road to Livorno.