Leopard Trek racing for Weylandt in California

The Amgen Tour of California marks the first race back for the Leopard Trek team after it left the Giro d'Italia following the tragic death of their teammate Wouter Weylandt.

Race organisers AEG announced today that there will be a moment of silence before the start of the first stage in South Lake Tahoe on Sunday, and the Leopard Trek riders will lead off the stage in honour of the Belgian's memory.

Cyclingnews spoke with Jens Voigt and directeur sportif Torsten Schmidt, while Andy Schleck spoke at the press conference about getting back to work following the difficult week since Weylandt died of injuries he sustained in a crash of the third stage of the Giro.

"The loss of Wouter last week was personally for me a big shock - he was a good friend of mine before and this year we were teammates," Schleck said. "There are no words to describe the feelings we've been going through - myself, my brother and the team, and you have to think of his family...

"It's been hard to stay focused on training in the last days, but I am sure he would have liked that I would stay in the race and do my best, and I talk for the whole team and we ride for Wouter."

All of the riders of the Amgen Tour of California as well as the race organisation and staff will be wearing black wristbands in memory of Weylandt, and the bands will also be distributed to the peloton in Europe later on.

"It's a very sad situation for the team, for the staff and management," said Schmidt. "The team was really down. But Wouter's passion was cycling, and we all have the same passion to fight and race our bikes and that is how we go on. We prepared well - there are a lot of climbs coming and we're confident we will show our best side and fight and race."

Voigt, who suffered his own serious crash in the 2009 Tour de France, reflected on the randomness of the outcome of these kinds of accidents.

"They told me that it must have been similar circumstances to my crash - a fast descent, head injuries. A lot of people, like my dad said 'you know son, you were lucky two years ago'," said Voigt. "We were going more or less the same speed – I was going 80kmh - I have to consider myself very lucky. I still carry the scars; a few broken bones and a lot of road rash everywhere, but I walked out of hospital seven days later and eight or nine weeks later I raced Tour of Missouri.

"I don't think I suffer any consequences from it - I can move everything and I remember the names and birth dates of my children and wife. Things like that put things into perspective."

Voigt said that he hopes the team has had enough time to process Weylandt's death. "I hope that we are okay and not still in shock or paralysed by fear. [For the riders who were in Italy] I think it was a lot harder, for us, it was a huge shock of course. We had some time to digest it."

Both Schmidt and Schleck said that they intend to race hard in the Tour of California. "We aren't here just to participate. We will try everything - we will try for the GC and for stages. We have good guys here, we don't have a sprinter, but I think the race will be decided on mountain stages and hard days, in breakaways and we are ready for that," said Schmidt.

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Laura Weislo
Managing Editor

Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Managing Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks. Laura's specialises in covering doping, anti-doping, UCI governance and performing data analysis.