Together with his team Leopard Trek, French rider Brice Feillu left the Giro d'Italia on Tuesday evening, in mourning over the tragic death of his teammate Wouter Weylandt on Monday. But contrary to the majority of the team's other riders, the talented climber would have preferred to battle on in memory of his friend.
"I thought that we shouldn't have abandoned, that we should have continued to fight and to give the best of ourselves to honour the memory of Wouter," he told L'Equipe. "And I told them so. But most of the riders wanted to leave. For some of them, it was unimaginable not to attend the funeral."
Of course, Feillu had no problem putting his personal opinion aside and follow his team's decision. "This is my opinion but I respect the one of my friends and their choice. We are a team, we have to remain united in solidarity even if in such a situation, there are different views," he wrote on his personal blog.
"I will keep an image of Wouter in my head that is dear to me. On Sunday after the first stage, he hugged me, laughing, because I helped him to the top of a climb so that he could do the sprint after the descent. I really liked Wouter, we got along so well. He talked to me in French and we were on the same wavelength."
The other teams competing in the Giro have supported Leopard Trek's decision to leave the event. "It's only logical, it would have been a nightmare for them to continue," Sky team director Sean Yates told Reuters. "When something like that happens, it's not at all surprising that a team leaves. The rest of us will just keep plugging away."
Team Sky had also pulled out of last year's Vuelta a Espana after team masseur Txema Gonzalez died because of a bacterial infection.
"In their place, I would have done the same thing," said HTC-Highroad sports director Valerio Piva. "It's a very difficult moment, but everybody respects their decision. A race is supposed to be a joyful event, and after something like this, it's very hard to remain focused. Better to get home, be with your family and start off again further down the line."
Race director Angelo Zomegnan, however, regretted the team's departure. "The race would have given them the opportunity to gain new confidence. Now, the riders have postponed the return to normal life for a few days. I hope the team will give them psychological support," Zomegnan told news agency dpa prior to the start of stage five in Piombino.
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