March 28, 2016 (Belgium) – The tragic death this weekend of Belgian cyclist Antoine Demoitié (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) during the Gent Wevelgem race has the Pro peloton mourning and in shock. Demoitié, 25, was reportedly involved in a crash and then run over by one of the event motorbikes – he died a few hours later in hospital.
While there have been many recent accidents involving motorbikes during bicycle races, this is apparently the first death. Gent Wevelgem winner Peter Sagan (SLO) Tinkoff was involved in an altercation last year at the Vuelta a España and there have been other recent incidents as well pointing to safety issues with a tragic ending this time.
Canadian rider Hugo Houle (AG2R) who competed at Gent Wevelgem and was interviewed this morning by Radio d’Ici (CBC French) spoke about how riders are very competitive, trying to give the best of themselves, but when something like this happens it gets to everyone from the inside.
“We take risks in running races like that, especially the Belgian races which are known for being very aggressive,” explained Houle to radio host Alain Gravel. “And on the road we are fairly vulnerable. The motorcyclists make the route safe for us. Sometimes they have to pass (the peloton) to go in front and close roads up ahead. So that means you sometimes find motorbikes in the peloton with us.”
Houle noted that, despite the risks, it would be difficult to remove motorbikes from the peloton. “They are there in part for the TV (images) and in part because they are there for our security. Without motorbikes, it is sure that the races could not be held. We are not in a stadium, we are on the road. The same roads that people use everyday to go to work on. Can we set up better rules? Certainly,” concluded Houle.
Demoitié was a talented rider winning the 2014 Tour du Finistère and finishing second in both the Handzame Classic and the GP Stad Zottegem in 2015 also finishing third in the Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise that year.
Pedal joins the cycling community in extending sympathy and condolences to Demoitié’s family and friends.
Radio Canada (interview in French) here.