Riders taking part in today's GP Vermarc Sport held a minute of silence before the start of the race in honour of Niels De Vrient, the amateur rider who died yesterday during a practice race in Wortegem-Petegem.
John Degenkolb (Lotto Soudal), Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep), and Victor Campenaerts (racing as an independent) are among the riders to take the start in the kermesse, a warm-up race ahead of the season restart.
De Vriendt, who was racing for the VDM-Van Durm-Michiels-Trawobo CT team in the first post-COVID-19 lockdown race in Belgium, suffered heart failure towards the end of the race, with medics on the scene unable to resuscitate him after 40 minutes. The race was cancelled.
The 20-year-old Belgian was joined at the race by a number of pros, including Sep Vanmarcke (EF Pro Cycling) and Belgian champion Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix). Vanmarcke later took to Instagram to pay tribute to De Vriendt.
"Dear Niels, today you were just like me and 173 others very happy to be back at the start," he wrote. "It has very quickly become a low point no-one will forget.
"Again, it's someone who has given their life when he practices his sport/hobby/passion. Again, a young colleague who suddenly leaves us. It happens, unfortunate and unexpected, but we never get used to it.
"So long, Niels. I wish a lot of strength to all the people who were close to Niels."
The GP Vermarc Sport continues this afternoon, and will take in ten laps of a 15.4km circuit, plus another 10km of racing for a total of 164km.
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