Tributes pour in after Belgian cyclist Antonie Demoitie dies following accident
Wanty-Gobert team manager Jean-Francois Bourlart has paid tribute to Antoine Demoitie after the cyclist died in an accident.
The Belgian rider was reportedly involved in a collision with a motorbike and several other competitors in northern France during the Gent-Wevelgem race on Sunday before being taken to hospital.
The 25-year-old was placed in an intensive care unit in a Lille hospital but Wanty-Gobert confirmed his death early on Monday morning.
The team's official Twitter page showed a photograph of the cyclist with the words "Antoine Demoitie (1990-2016)" and, speaking at a press conference, Bourlart said Demoitie was fulfilling his dream.
He said: "Antoine joined Wanty-Groupe Gobert this season and wanted to ride WorldTour races. Every time we spoke with each other, he only spoke about that. Last Friday, he rode his first WorldTour race (the) E3 Harelbeke.
"He was part of the day's breakaway and climbed the Taaienberg with the best. He was very proud of himself and we couldn't have been more proud of him.
"On Sunday, the incredible happened, the inconceivable. We can't believe it. We are angry. After Rob Goris (who died of a heart attack in 2012), Antoine is the second rider we have had to let go. We cry and we think of his wife Astrid and his family."
The team confirmed they will not race in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde on Tuesday and have also withdrawn from the Route Adelie and Paris-Camembert.
Cyclist Roy Jans said: "As riders we decided together that we can't ride De Panne. It's too early. We don't have 100 per cent focus at the moment. We need time to process this but first let it even sink in what happened."
Sports director of the Gent-Wevelgem race Hilaire Van Der Schueren also spoke on Monday afternoon and added: "Antoine called me on the radio for bottles - his last words. I gave them and was called to a second group.
"I asked the commissaire to pass the group and then it happened. Our mechanic was the first to see Antoine and he immediately called me. At that moment I thought Antoine was dead but the ambulance was there straight away and he was airlifted to hospital. There was hope until the organization of Gent-Wevelgem asks me for contact details of Antoine's next of kin. Then you know it's very serious."
Two-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome paid tribute to Demoitie on social media, saying: "So sad to hear of the passing of Antoine Demoitie. Condolences to his friends and family."
Mark Cavendish, on his official Twitter account, said: "Such tragic news. RIP Antoine Demoitie. My thoughts and condolences are with your family, friends and teammates."
The 243km, one-day race was won by Peter Sagan of Slovakia while Briton Lizzie Armitstead finished 17th in the women's race which was won by her Boels Dolmans team-mate Chantal Blaak.
A statement from Gianni Bugno, the president of the Professional Cyclists Association (CPA), called for lessons to be learned after the death of Demoitie.
Bugno said: "About the terrible accident that caused the death of the rider Antoine Demoitie during the Gent-Wevelgem race, the CPA and all the riders demand to shed immediate light on the accident and the circumstances that have caused it as well as on any of the responsible involved parties.
"At this time of sadness and sorrow for the death of Antoine we do not want to make controversy, but we have so much frustration inside.
"We have always stated that the safety of the riders must be in first place in the discussions of the cycling stakeholders and at the last CCP meeting we specifically asked to communicate the strategies to improve security during the races.
"I do not want to accuse anyone but (I want to) make everyone reflect on the responsibility we have to ensure that a very high level of attention, awareness and control over safety standards during each race is maintained."