The Wanty-Groupe Gobert team has confirmed it will ride the Tour of Flanders on Sunday as a way to remember teammate Antoine Demoitié who died on Sunday after being hit by a race motorbike following a crash during Gent-Wevelgem. The team will then attend Demoitié’s funeral on Monday morning but not race in France at the Paris-Camembert on April 3.
Twelve riders from the team gathered on Wednesday for a training ride and then spoke about Demoitié’s death. They did not ride this week’s Three Days of De Panne but Marco Marcato, Jérôme Baugnies, Dimitri Claeys, Björn Thurau, Tom Devriendt, Frederik Backaert, Kévin Van Melsen and Kenny Dehaes will line up for the Tour of Flanders. The riders will reportedly line-up for the Tour of Flanders wearing a commemorative T-shirt and with #RideForAntoine engraved on their bikes.
“It was a very hard week. 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," directeur sportif Hilaire Van Der Schueren explained in a team statement, referring to the Belgian rider who died from a heart attack on Sunday after collapsing at the Criterium International.
“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."
Kévin Van Melsen was part of the day's breakaway in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Dwars door Vlaanderen. He wants to be in the break on Sunday to honour his teammate.
“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 (instead of the initially planned Sunday), I am twice as motivated for Sunday's race. 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," he said.
Team captain Marco Marcato was Demoitié’s roommate before Gent-Wevelgem and will be back in Belgium for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.
“I went home to prepare for this race which was the best thing for me to do. The Ronde is one of the biggest races on the calendar and certainly one of the best. My preparation wasn't optimal but I feel strong enough to fight with the best. I will try my best like I always do and then we'll see."
Wanty-Groupe Gobert for the Tour of Flanders: Marco Marcato, Jérôme Baugnies, Dimitri Claeys, Björn Thurau, Tom Devriendt, Frederik Backaert, Kévin Van Melsen and Kenny Dehaes.
Sports directors: Hilaire Van Der Schueren and Steven De Neef.