The Tour de Pologne is struggling to come to terms with the tragic news that one of its riders, Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto Soudal), had died in a crash during stage 3. Lambrecht crashed into a concrete culvert a third of the way through the stage to Zabrze.
A local rider who did not want to be identified told Polish reporters after the stage that Lambrecht had put his arm up and been calling for a director shortly before crashing, but that nobody had any idea why he had actually fallen.
First reports that Lambrecht had died filtered through just as the riders were finishing the stage. Hospital staff informed a local newspaper, but it took time to be confirmed through the race organisation. Lambrecht's death was then confirmed by the race doctor and then by the Tour de Pologne director Czeslaw Lang.
As news filtered through, the usual festive atmosphere surrounding the seven-day WorldTour event subsided rapidly. The pounding pop music that accompanies each start and finish was turned down and the hyped-up, prize-giving ceremonies were quickly cancelled. The crowds dispersed quickly and quietly.
Out at the line of team buses situated behind the stadium next to the finish, waiting for the riders to come through, the mood was equally downcast. Staff stood quietly by their charges as they wheeled to a halt and tried to find out accurate information. Most heard of Lambrecht's death first through social media.
Although there have been bad crashes in the past, this is the first time since the race turned fully professional in 1993 under the management of Czeslaw Lang that there has been a fatality on the event.
Lambrecht's death was only confirmed shortly after the finish and at this time some teams had already left the event. Some directors went over to the Lotto Soudal team bus to express support. All Lotto Soudal's riders were inside the bus, with just one empty team car parked outside, and staff only emerged briefly to talk to their counterparts before re-entering the bus.
Deceuninck-QuickStep DS Brian Holm was driving the team car and passed the scene of Lambrecht's crash. Visibly affected by the news like all everyone on the race, he told Cyclingnews, "We saw that he'd fallen, you don't know what to do, if to stop or not, but we thought we'd best leave it to the doctors. Somehow I could see with all the people stopped you knew it would be bad."
"It's really, really bad news," Belgian photographer Luc Claessen, reporting on the race from a motorbike, told Cyclingnews as he walked away from the finish.
"He got second in the Tour de l'Avenir behind [Egan Bernal] and in Belgium even this week they were talking about Remco [Evenepoel, San Sebastian winner] and how well he had done recently, but also about Lambrecht, and how maybe in the future he could win a Grand Tour."
As yet it is unclear if the Tour de Pologne will hold tomorrow's stage, which features the race's first uphill finish, with the race organisers saying a statement may be released later. But it does seem that the race will continue for now. Czeslaw Lang also told reporters that is also unclear, as yet, if Lotto Soudal will remain in the Tour de Pologne.
Cyclingnews would like to extend its condolences to Bjorg's family, friends and teammates.