GENT, Belgium (VN) — Antoine Demoitié’s death in Belgium’s Gent-Wevelgem classic Sunday was an “unfortunate accident,” said one journalist who was at the race. Those close to the Belgian cyclist say that a race motorbike driver was experienced and could not avoid the fallen rider.
The 25-year-old of team Wanty – Groupe Gobert crashed just south of the Belgian boarder in France, 150 kilometers into the WorldTour event, and suffered further injuries when hit by a race motorbike. Overnight at Lille’s hospital, he died.
“This was just a very unfortunate accident,” Dutch NOS journalist Sebastiaan Timmerman told Het Laatste Nieuws. “Antoine Demoitié crashed with several other riders. An official motorcycle that rode behind them tried to avoid the group of riders, but it went wrong. He crashed and engine landed on Antoine Demoitié.
“I know [the driver], he is a very experienced guy. When he came into the tent where I was working, you saw right away that he was greatly upset. He came to me and asked if I had news about the rider. It was out of the blue, the incident was never communicated via the contest radio.”
Race organizer Flanders Classics has not communicated the name of the motorbike driver. “The whole cycling family is mourning,” it said in a release. “The passing away of Demoitié is a slap in the face for the whole cycling world. May you rest in peace, Antoine.”
On Monday, Wanty – Groupe Gobert — a Pro Continental squad — will speak about the incident. Already, however, the team called it a “tragic accident” and nothing more in a dangerous sport.
“This is a tragic accident with a driver who’s been in Belgian cycling races for at least 20 years,” press officer José Been said. “He is very affected by what happened, just as we all are. This is not a case of collision at high speed such as the ones with Peter Sagan or Stig Broeckx. This is a fatal accident, the man tried to brake and fell on Antoine.”
In recent years, several vehicle/cyclists incidents have marred the sport. In February’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, a passing medic motorbike caused Stig Broeckx (Lotto – Soudal) to crash. Last year, motorbikes caused Tinkoff teammates Peter Sagan and Sergio Paulinho to fall in the Vuelta a España. The same thing happened to Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) in the Tour de France, and a Shimano neutral service car knocked both Jesse Sergent and Sébastien Chavanel off their bikes in the Tour of Flanders as well.
After the incident involving Broeckx, BMC Racing manager Jim Ochowicz called on the sport’s governing body, the UCI, to do something. “This has got to stop before the headlines in the future are of a more disturbing nature than what we have seen in 2015 and now again in 2016,” he said.
Demoitié only just began his career in the big leagues. He signed with Wanty over the winter and started his first WorldTour event Friday in the E3 Harelbeke.
Wanty may not race the Three Days of De Panne, which starts Tuesday. Been added, “We leave it up to the family whether they want us to take part for Antoine.”