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Giro d’Italia stage 3: Weylandt’s death casts a long shadow

Stage 3: Reggio Emilia to Rapallo, 173km

Ángel Vicioso of the wild-card Androni Giocattoli team claimed a maiden Grand Tour stage win and Garmin-Cervélo‘s David Millar took over the race lead from compatriot Mark Cavendish, but everything else was secondary to the crash suffered by Leopard Trek‘s Wouter Weylandt which claimed the 26-year old sprinter’s life on stage three of the Giro d’Italia.

Weylandt’s accident occurred about 25km from the stage finish in Rapallo, on the twisty and very tight descent from the Passo del Bocco, as the peloton pedalled at high speed in pursuit of the day’s breakaway group. Post-crash TV images clearly showed serious bleeding from a head injury and medics administering CPR to the unconscious rider on the scene. He was airlifted to hospital but subsequently pronounced dead.

The exact circumstances of Weylandt’s crash were unclear, although RadioShack‘s Fumiyuki Beppu appeared to discount the possibility that he had collided with another rider on Twitter:

I saw his crash real time. I was just behind him. He was alone – nobody around him at the moment on the downhill.

Reports on Italian broadcaster RAI suggested that Weylandt clipped his left pedal on the ground. This was subsequently confirmed by RadioShack press attaché Philippe Maertens, who relayed what rider Manuel Cardoso:

Wouter was dropped and tried to come back to the group. [Weylandt] then looked behind to see if he would be better to wait for other dropped riders. While looking behind, he hit with his left pedal or the left side of his handlebars on a small wall and was catapulted to the other side of the road when he hit again something.

Doctor Giovanni Tredici told Italian television:

Despite immediate treatment there was nothing we could do. Weylandt was the victim of a fall and we are still trying to reconstruct the dynamics of what happened. We tried for 40 minutes to resuscitate him.

He also told the press:

He died from a fracture to the front of his skull. We arrived at the scene 30 seconds after the crash. There was nothing we could do to revive him.

Dedication on the Leopard Trek website (www.leopardtrek.lu)

Ironically, Weylandt’s one Giro stage win came last year on stage three, at Middelburg in the Netherlands. It will be the first anniversary of that victory tomorrow.

It is the fourth time in the history of the Giro that a rider has been killed in a crash, but the first since Emilio Ravasio in 1986. The last pro to die in a racing crash was Kazakhstan’s Andrei Kivilev, who died from head injuries the day after crashing during Paris-Nice in 2003.

Weylandt had not originally been included in Leopard Trek’s Giro line-up. He was drafted in only after Daniele Bennati was injured at the Tour de Romandie a fortnight ago. At the time of writing, it is unclear whether the team will continue in the race.

Weylandt is survived by his girlfriend Sophie, who is expecting their first child in September. For a full profile of the rider, please refer to VeloNews‘s obituary here.

RIP Wouter Weylandt, seen here celebrating a stage win at the Vuelta a España in 2009 (image courtesy of Graham Watson).

A big win for a small team, overshadowed by tragedy

Aside from the tragedy, a race did occur today – although Weylandt’s death of course casts a long shadow over any celebrations tonight.

Gianluca Brambilla (Colnago-CSF Inox), Bart De Clercq (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Pavel Brutt (Katusha) and Davide Ricci Bitti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) formed the breakaway of the day after around 30km. The 29-year old Russian Brutt won a stage from a similar escape group in 2008, while the others were all making their Giro debuts.

The first hour of racing was completed at a brisk 49kph before settling down to a more amenable pace on the long and gentle uphill drag to the third category climb of Passo del Bocco. The escape group built a lead of around six minutes before the peloton, with Saxo Bank Sungard, HTC-Highroad, Garmin-Cervélo and Lampre-ISD all taking turns at the front, started to pull them back in.

Twice in this middle portion of the stage the maglia rosa Mark Cavendish was forced to stop for a bike change. On each occasion he was paced back to the bunch by teammates without excessive drama.

By the lower slopes of the climb the gap was down to two minutes, a deficit which was halved by the summit. It was on the descent where Weylandt crashed. Unaware of the seriousness of the incident, the peloton continued and caught the break with 12.5km to go, shortly before the tricky 2.6km, 6.9% Zoagli climb.

Ángel Vicioso claimed a stage which will be forever remembered for the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt

Despite Lampre’s best attempts to control the tempo four men attacked almost immediately, and although they were quickly closed down the acceleration was enough to shell several riders out of the back of the peloton, including Cavendish (slightly surprisingly) and Carlos Sastre (very surprisingly).

Finally a decisive break of four got away. Garmin’s Christophe Le Mevel was joined by Vicioso, Daniel Moreno (Katusha) and Pablo Lastras (Movistar). Le Mevel’s teammate Millar worked feverishly to bridge the gap to them but the effort clearly sapped the British rider, who has never been a prolific sprinter in the best of circumstances. Despite Le Mevel’s best efforts to lead out the sprint in the final kilometre there was nothing Millar could do to prevent Vicioso sweeping past him to take an easy victory.

Petacchi, who hails from La Spezia, just 55km from the finish in Rapallo, finished near the front of the main bunch in 13th, 21 seconds behind. Cavendish was 3:20 down.

Despite missing out on the stage win Millar took over the maglia rosa, seven seconds ahead of Vicioso.

Commenting after the stage, an upset Millar dismissed his achievement in taking over he race lead:

It means nothing. I can’t even imagine what his family is going through, it’s terrible.

It was one of the million things that we have to go through. Our sport is very tragic at times, it has been throughout its history, but we get mixed up in a lot of stupid things in this sport. But the bottom line is that it’s a sport that has its risks every single day.

The bottom line is that the guys here are the best cyclists in the world, and the best guys in the world can have a mechanical (fault) or find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Leopard Trek team manager Brian Nygaard said in a statement:

Today, our teammate and friend Wouter Weylandt passed away after a crash on the third stage of the Giro d’Italia. The team is left in a state of shock and sadness and we send all our thoughts and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Wouter. This is a difficult day for cycling and for our team, and we should all seek support and strength in the people close to us.

Garmin-Cervélo sporting director Bingen Fernández told VeloNews he assumed the worst when he saw the Belgian on the road:

When we saw him, it looked very bad. It appeared that he was dead. He was not moving and there was no sign of life. His neck was twisted in an unnatural way and there was blood coming out. It was a horrible scene. Our team doctor stayed with him to treat him.

This is what cyclists face every day they race. It is a very dangerous sport. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often. When it does, it’s horrible for everyone.

Stage four is classified as a medium mountain stage, covering 216km from Genoa to Livorno and including two climbs: the long but relatively benign Passo del Bracco early in the stage, and the Castellacio, a tricky 4.6km climb with ramps as steep as 18%, whose summit is less than 16km from the finish and will therefore present a significant hurdle for the sprinters to get over.

Racing, however, is probably the last thing on anyone’s minds tonight.

Stage 4 profile

Stage 3 result:

1. Ángel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli) 3:57:38

2. David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) same time

3. Pablo Lastras (Movistar) s/t

4. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) s/t

5. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) s/t

General classification:

1. David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) 10:04:29

2. Ángel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli) +0:07

3. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (HTC-Highroad) +0:09

4. Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) +0:09

5. Craig Lewis (HTC-Highroad) +0:09

6. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:12

7. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) +0:13

8. Pablo Lastras (Movistar) +0:18

9. Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack) +0:19

10. Tiago Machado (RadioShack) +0:19

Points classification:

1. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) 28 pts

2. Ángel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli) 25

3. David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) 20

4. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) 20

5. Pablo Lastras (Movistar) 16

Mountains classification:

1. Gianluca Brambila (Colnago-CSF Inox) 5 pts

2. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) 3

3. Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 3

4. Pavel Brutt (Katusha) 3

5. Pablo Lastras (Movistar) 2

Links: Giro d’Italia official websiteSteephill.tv

Giro d’Italia recaps

Stage 1: Pinotti swaps red, white and green for pink

Stage 2: Petacchi celebrates, Cavendish remonstrates in ham-fisted Parma finish

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

26 Responses to Giro d’Italia stage 3: Weylandt’s death casts a long shadow

  1. Thanks Tim. I was watching the race too, but missed the fateful moment (and was glad I didn’t see the crash). It will be hard to enjoy the sport for a while, but we’ll probably just shrug and carry on, as will the riders.

    http://wp.me/pFtlw-1Ee

    • Tim says:

      There were no live images of the crash, only the one brief close-up of the stricken Weylandt and then helicopter camera shots which show the medics giving him CPR. I’ve updated the post with new quotes from RadioShack riders which seem to confirm what happened to him.

      Ultimately, though, the details are unimportant. They do not change the fact that a tragic accident occurred today. So, so sad.

  2. Kitty Fondue says:

    It still seems so unreal. Terrible terrible day.

  3. Sheree says:

    They didn’t show the crash, just a very brief clip of the medics working on a fallen Leopard Trek rider which made me feel sick to my stomach. One immediately sensed it was a very serious situation. It’s a sad day for cycling and an even sadder day for Wouter’s partner, family and friends.

    • Tim says:

      It was a sickening shot, and one that at least the TV director cut away from quickly, presumably having not realised initially quite how bad it was. You could see quite clearly the effect of what seemed to be a face-first impact with a hard surface.

      As maglia rosa, I guess Millar will be particularly influential in organising some form of tribute tomorrow. He’s a fitting man for that role.

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