Weylandt's team withdraws from Giro d'Italia

The teammates of Wouter Weylandt crossed the finish line side by side and with arms linked at the Giro d'Italia on Tuesday, honouring the cyclist who died in a crash a day earlier.

The teammates of Wouter Weylandt crossed the finish line side by side and with arms linked at the Giro d'Italia on Tuesday, honouring the cyclist who died in a crash a day earlier.

After a sombre day of ceremonial riding, Weylandt's Leopard-Trek team withdrew from the race, one of pro cycling's three major tours.

"We simply cannot continue racing given the circumstances," said Fabian Wegmann, captain of the Luxembourg-based team. "We are professional athletes, but we feel this is the right thing to do."

The teams observed a minute's silence at the start of the fourth stage and wore black ribbons on a day in which no points were awarded.

The field rode together with each team taking the lead at 10-kilometre intervals. With less than three kilometres to go, overall leader David Millar waved the Leopard-Trek team to the front to reach the line first.

Weylandt, a 26-year-old Belgian, died Monday after falling on a descent about 20 kilometres from the finish of the third stage.

"The decision needed to be taken by the riders because they are the ones that participate in the race," team manager Brian Nygaard said. "We have always said that we would stand behind their choice.

"We wish to thank the other teams, the race organization RCS, the Italian authorities and all the fans on the road between Genova and Livorno on today's stage, as the peleton paid tribute to Wouter Weylandt."

Tyler Farrar, Weylandt's close friend and training partner, rides for Garmin-Cervelo but was invited to join the Leopard-Trek cyclists for the final part of the stage. He was in tears as the riders hit the line in unison. Farrar had said he would pull out of the race after the stage.

"I think it has taken something out of all of us," teammate Davide Vigano said. "He was only 26 and his loss has left a big hole inside all of us."

Instead of a presentation ceremony for the winner, the Leopard-Trek team stood on the podium with Millar and the three other jersey holders to pay their respects after a lone bugler played a solemn tribute.

"Touching conclusion of a very emotional stage," the Leopard-Trek team wrote on its Twitter page. "Thank you to all the other teams for your support!"

Before the race, the Leopard-Trek team bus was roped off and other riders and team staff were able to pass through to pay condolences.

Weylandt clipped a wall and tumbled hard to the ground when going down a mountain pass at a high speed. He lay motionless and bleeding heavily on the roadside before paramedics cut off his helmet and worked for 40 minutes to resuscitate him.

"It is something none of us has ever faced before," Nygaard said.

'Inherent danger of this sport'

An autopsy Tuesday showed he had died of internal injuries and damage to the base of his skull. Coroner Armando Mannucci said he had died on impact and "hadn't suffered."

Weylandt's father went to the hospital in Lavagna to identify the body on Tuesday. He had arrived at Milan's Malpensa airport on Monday along with Weylandt's pregnant girlfriend, Anne Sophie, and the rider's mother and sister. After leaving the hospital, the family was taken to the scene of the accident where they laid flowers on the roadside.

Belgian cycling great Eddy Merckx led the tributes that continued to pour in.

"He was one of the best young Belgians. Unfortunately, he has lost his life, but that is part of the inherent danger of this sport and this job. In Belgium we are all sad for him and his family."

Competitive riding resumes with Wednesday's fifth stage, a 190-kilometre route from Piombino to Orvieto. The 21-stage race ends in Milan on May 29.