After years of trying, Antoine Demoitié had finally made it to The Show. On Friday, the 25-year-old lined out for his first ever WorldTour race at E3 Harelbeke, determined to honour the occasion. Television time is manna to a Pro Continental team such as Wanty-Groupe Gobert. During the pre-race briefing, the directeurs sportifs didn’t have to look hard for a volunteer to enter the day’s early break.
As Cancellara, Boonen et al gave chase behind, Demoitié duly rode his heart out at the head of the race. On the slopes of the Kruisberg and the Taaienberg, flanked by raucous Flemish fans, he must have felt that he was living the dream after years performing off Broadway with Continental outfit Wallonie-Bruxelles.
“He was always happy. He was happy because he was a cyclist. He was happy because he was on a Pro Continental team. He was happy because he was doing big races,” Wanty-Groupe Gobert directeur sportif Hilaire Van der Schueren said on Monday afternoon.
“I said to him after the race on Friday: ‘Very good, now do the same on Sunday.’ But he said, ‘No, no, I want to do a good classification.’ And I knew with the wind at Gent-Wevelgem it would be hard for a break to go away, so I said ‘Ok, you can stay in the bunch.'”
Demoitié would not make it to Wevelgem on Sunday afternoon. His race ended when he crashed with four other riders at Sainte-Marie-Cappel, across the border in France, with 115 kilometres remaining. As he lay on the ground, he was struck by a following motorbike. He was taken to hospital in Lille, where he died shortly after midnight.
At a sombre press conference in De Panne on Monday afternoon, Wanty-Groupe Gobert riders and management were still trying to come to terms with their loss, and journalists were wary of intruding on their grief. The team had gathered at the Hotel Cajou ahead of the Three Days of De Panne but, understandably, they have withdrawn from the race. The riders watched in silence as Van der Schueren and team manager Jean-François Bourlart addressed reporters.
- Riders, teammates and friends pay tribute to Antoine Demoitie
- Wanty-Groupe Gobert withdraw from Driedaagse De Panne after death of Demoitie
- Weekend Wrap: Tragedy at Gent-Wevelgem
- Antoine Demoitie will be truly missed, says UCI president Brian Cookson
- CPA calls for improved safety standards following death of Demoitie
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