Brian Nygaard explained that his Leopard Trek team has continued in the Giro d’Italia at the request of the family of the late Wouter Weylandt and because they feel that staying together is the best way to try to come to terms with their teammate’s tragic death.
“Our position was to stay close to the boys and take the most suitable decision in such a difficult situation,” Nygaard said in Genoa on Tuesday morning. “From our point of view, it was very important to start, both because it was the request of the family and because it was important for the team. Our life is here.”
Weylandt’s family arrived in Italy late on Monday and they spent the night at the Leopard Trek hotel in Rapallo. Nygaard was proud that his riders were able to comfort Weylandt’s family in such a distressing moment.
“It was a very difficult situation,” he said. “They were with the team last night and this morning, and we lived a very sensitive moment. I’m very proud of the boys that they were able to support the family at this time, it was very difficult.”
Nygaard believes that the riders will be able to take some solace from being among their colleagues and from the outpouring of solidarity from the cycling world at large.
“In difficult times, it’s also important to stay together and share the grief and the emotions with your teammates, your companions from other teams and the tifosi of the Giro d’Italia,” he said.
The decision was taken to neutralise Tuesday’s stage, with each team spending 10km at the front of the bunch setting the pace, before Weylandt’s remaining Leopard Trek teammates cross the line in front.
“On days like today, aside from all of the problems that we have had, cycling behaves like a family,” Nygaard said. “We need to stay together with our friends and companions. It’s not a day to be alone. The best support we can give to the boys is to show that we are here on the road.”
When asked about the crash itself, Nygaard pointed out that tragedies take place in all walks of life. Weylandt’s accident on the slopes of the Passo del Bocco took place after the riders had already negotiated the most technical and dangerous sections of the descent.
“The boys live day by day doing a very dangerous job, and sometimes in life terrible things happen, be it in cycling or in general,” Nygaard said.
Race director Angelo Zomegnan visited the Leopard Trek team bus before the start, and Nygaard paid tribute to the sensitivity of the race organisers and the press in their handling of the tragedy.
“I want to thank RCS for all of their support and the respect that we have had from the press,” he said. “Today is a way of remembering the important things in life, of remembering Wouter. Today there could not have been a race."
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.