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Wanty will start Flanders to honor Demoitie

Belgian squad Wanty – Groupe Gobert will return to racing at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, riding in honor of teammate Antoine Demoitié.

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Perhaps the best way to honor death is to celebrate that which was loved in life.

Belgian Continental squad Wanty – Groupe Gobert will return to racing at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, riding in honor of teammate Antoine Demoitié, who died in a crash involving a motorbike at Gent-Wevelgem, as well as Belgian Daan Myngheer, who died of a heart attack at Critérium International. On Monday, the team will attend Demoitié’s funeral.

“It is not easy to think about racing, but now I know for sure that I will be able to say goodbye to Antoine on Monday, I am twice as motivated for Sunday’s race. I want to be part of the breakaway with Antoine on my mind. I want him to be proud of me and proud of us up there,” said rider Kevin Van Melsen.

The team pulled out of races this week, but put a long training ride together on Wednesday.

“It was the right decision not to ride in De Panne and the races in France this weekend. But on Sunday we race. The only thing we can do for Antoine and also for Daan is get a result to make them proud,” said sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren.

Van Melsen will be joined by team captain Marco Marcato, Jérôme Baugnies, Dimitri Claeys, 
Björn Thurau, 
Tom Devriendt, Frederik Backaert, Kévin Van Melsen, and 
Kenny Dehaes on Sunday.

“I went home to prepare for this race which was the best thing for me to do,” Marcato said. “The Ronde is one of the biggest races on the calendar and certainly one of the best. My preparation wasn’t optimal, but I feel strong enough to fight with the best. I will try my best like I always do, and then we’ll see.”

Demoitié’s death rekindled a long-running debate over rider safety, and the rules surrounding motorized vehicles in particular. Rider crashes caused by motorcycles and cars are frequent, and have led to calls to reduce the number of vehicles, reduce the size of the peloton, improve driver training, and hand down harsher penalties for causing an accident.

On Tuesday, UCI President Brian Cookson released an open letter in which he said he expects changes to vehicle regulations. But he also urged caution, noting that modern pro cycling could not exist without many of the vehicles that currently surround the peloton.

“Over the next few weeks, the UCI will continue the work it has been doing for several months on an ongoing basis, to address safety in road racing. I certainly anticipate that there will be changes in rules and in recommendations about the conduct of those involved,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, rules and recommendations can only go so far in regulating human behaviour. We all must remember that we have responsibility not just for our own safety but also for the safety of the people around us. Perhaps that way our sport will have a legacy that Antoine Demoitié deserves.”