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Wouter Weylandt remembered at the Giro d'Italia

Wouter Weylandt is remembered at the 2021 Giro d'Italia
Wouter Weylandt is remembered at the start of stage 2 at the 2021 Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Exactly ten years ago, on May 9 2011, Wouter Weylandt tragically died during the Giro d’Italia, crashing at speed the descent of the Passo del Bocco on stage 3 to Rapallo. 

The news of his death shocked the sport and everyone at the Giro d’Italia, with the following day’s stage to Livorno becoming a moment of remembrance and mourning, with his teammates and close friend Tyler Farrar leading the peloton across the finish line together.

Weylandt is always remembered at the Giro d'Italia via his 108 race number which has not been used in the race since his death and has become a sign of remembrance.

It was no different this year, on the tenth anniversary of his death, as a huge 108 decorated the start line of the stage in Stupinigi on Sunday and this year’s Giro d’Italia peloton remembered Weylandt with a minute’s silence.   

Weylandt’s window An-Sophie was pregnant at the time and brought up their daughter Alizée while mourning and gradually rebuilding her life. 

"We will eat pastries on Sunday morning. Alizée does not have to experience anything from the ninth of May I think. That is not a difficult day for her,"  An-Sophie bravely told Het Nieuwsblad in an emotional interview. 

"After her birth it was full of Wouter here in the house. Photos and stuff. Then it was really hard, and I made the click. I had to get on with my life, it hurt me too much to keep seeing everything. 

"I redesigned everything. I stopped visiting him at the cemetery because I was always crying. I lived completely around those visits, before and after work. I don't have to do this to myself, I thought. I still pass the cemetery every day for my work, but I can no longer find it in my heart to stop there. So I have not yet been to Wouter's grave with Alizée. We will not go back until she wants to.

"My intention was precisely to make sure that she remained that happy child. That I didn't bring up my daughter sadly, or pass the trauma on to her. And that works. She never felt what we felt, did she. But she knows who he is.

"One day she came home and asked: Was my daddy well known? At school they say he was a bike racer and was on TV a lot. Then I explained that her daddy fell while abroad with a bicycle in a race and so died. She knows quite a bit, but asks few questions."

Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt of team QuickStep C crosses the finish line to victory in the 3rd stage of the 93rd Giro dItalia a stage from Amsterdam to Middelburg on May 10 2010 in Middelburg Kazakh cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov took the overall leaders pink jersey following the third stage of the Tour of Italy the days honours going to Wouter Weylandt of Quick Step AFP PHOTOLuk Beines Photo credit should read Luk BeinesAFP via Getty Images

Wouter Weylandt won stage 3 at the 2010 Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport/Luk Beines)

Weylandt’s sister Elke works in professional cycling and is operations manager at Trek-Segafredo, while close friend and former teammate ljo Keisse is riding this year’s Giro d’Italia with Deceuninck-QuickStep.

"The realization that he hasn't been around for 10 years makes it seem like an eternity, but it doesn't feel like that at all. I still feel very close to my brother," Elke told Sporza.

"We have to go on without him and I can be angry about that, but with whom?

"There is no medicine for dizzyingly great sorrow. And even if it existed, I would not want to take it. I do not like to be sad, on the contrary. But mourning for someone also shows how great the love was or is.

"I myself have also aged 10 years. His death has changed me dramatically and has also changed my life. It has enriched my life and made it poorer, at the same time. It has made my personality more layered and I can put it into perspective. That is something positive that I can get out of it. But I don't have my brother anymore. My life would be richer with my brother still next to me."

Keisse and Weylandt went to the same school, they trained together and turned professional around the same time.

“May 9 is a day on which every year I reflect on the dangers of racing. And also with friendships that you build, but that can also disappear just like that. In nothing,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws.

“I got to know Wouter at school. By being at the same school and racing together, we were really close. He was very talented and liked to have fun. Me too. But I had less talent.”

Elke Weylandt has visited the Passo del Bocco where her brother crashed and where he is remembered with a small monument and a collection of objects and flowers left by visitors. Keisse has preferred to put off a visit until when he stops racing.

"That's something for after my cycling career. It is too difficult now that I’m still racing as a professional. Once I have stopped and can ride descents leisurely, I will do that. That can also be a part of the process that has never been completed. As a rider who is braving the same dangers every day, going to that spot is not an option.

"Ten years ago, I quickly decided not to dwell on it for too long. That is why I was able to keep racing. If you lose yourself too much in it, you have to stop. You cannot be constantly in your head with your best friend who died during a descent and at the same time take risks in a descent. That does not go together."

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