Warsaw (AFP) – Tour of Poland organisers neutralised and shortened Tuesday’s fourth stage following the tragic death of promising young Belgian rider Bjorg Lambrecht.
“It was a strange day, a day of mourning. Yesterday, we discussed until late about what to do today, how to mark the death of Bjorg Lambrecht,” race director Czeslaw Lang said.
“We needed a moment of reflection, a respite, to remember,” he added.
“The race organisers, the jury and the teams have made a decision to neutralise the 4th stage of the Tour de Pologne to pay our respects to Bjorg,” said a statement on the Tour website.
“The stage route has been reduced to 133.7 km and the final laps have been cut to one,” the statement added.
There were emotional scenes at the start of the day in the southern city of Jaworzno as Lambrecht’s fellow Lotto-Soudal riders wore black armbands and took part in a minute’s silence.
They then repeated the homage and stopped cycling at the same distance where Lambrecht had crashed a day earlier.
The 22-year-old lost control of his bike following rain and collided with a concrete bridge over a ditch around 30 kilometres into Monday’s third stage.
His parents had seen him off at Monday’s start and were waiting for his arrival at the finish line, race organisers said.
He was resuscitated on the spot, then taken in a critical condition to a hospital in Rybnik, where he died on the operating table.
The city’s public prosecutor has opened an investigation into the causes of the incident.
Lambrecht was one of Belgium’s great hopes for the future of cycling. He won the Under 23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finished second in the Tour de l’Avenir in 2017 behind this year’s Tour de France winner Egan Bernal before turning professional last year with Lotto-Soudal.
This year he placed 12th at the Criterium du Dauphine, winning the best young rider category, fourth in La Fleche Wallonne and sixth at the Amstel Gold Race.
– ‘Rest In Peace Bjorg’ –
Lambrecht’s death brought a flurry of tributes across social media from all corners of the cycling world.
“Such an incredibly sad day here in Poland and across the cycling world,” tweeted Mark Cavendish who finished sixth in Monday’s stage.
“To the family, friends and teammates of @bjorg_lambrecht, all our thoughts and sympathies are with you. Rest In Peace Bjorg. May your star continue to shine as brightly as it did in cycling.”
Alejandro Valverde, the world road race champion in 2018, echoed Cavendish’s comments.
“Deeply sorry for the loss of Bjorg Lambrecht, a cyclist who had demonstrated a lot in a few years,” the Spaniard tweeted.
Lambrecht is the third professional cyclist to die during a race since the beginning of 2018.
Belgian rider Michael Goolaerts, 23, suffered a heart attack during last year’s Paris-Roubaix one-day classic as did 27-year-old Dutchman Robbert de Greef in April after competing in the Omloop van de Braakman.
Three years ago, another young rider from Belgium, 22-year-old Daan Myngheer, died in hospital two days after suffering a cardiac arrest on the Criterium International in Corsica.