Wouter Weylandt's Leopard Trek team quit Giro d'Italia

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Giro d'Italia riders observe silence for Wouter Weylandt

The Leopard Trek team has quit the Giro d'Italia after leading home a ceremonial fourth stage in honour of dead team-mate Wouter Weylandt.

The 26-year-old Belgian was killed after a high-speed crash on a descent in Monday's stage three.

"The riders of Leopard Trek wish to communicate that they will leave the Giro d'Italia," said a team statement.

"This choice of the riders has the full support of the staff and management of Leopard Trek."

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

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

Team captain Fabian Wegmann added. "We have a lot of respect for the Giro d'Italia and for cycling, but we simply cannot continue racing given the circumstances. We are professional athletes, but we feel this is the right thing to do."

A military band played a bugle tribute before the peloton headed off and, as is the tradition after a death during a race, the riders rode the stage at a slow pace, before overall leader David Millar waved the Leopard-Trek team to the front with three kilometres to go, allowing them to cross the line first.

Each rider wore a black armband and race director Angelo Zomegnan confirmed that as a mark of respect to Weylandt the coastal 216km stage would not count towards the overall race result.

Weylandt's close friend and training partner Tyler Farrar, who rides for Garmin-Cervelo, was invited to join the Leopard-Trek cyclists for the final part of the stage and was in tears as they rode over the line in unison.

Farrar said earlier on Tuesday he would pull out of the race after the fourth stage - with competitive riding due to resume on Wednesday when riders take on the fifth stage of the 21 in total, a 191km ride from Piombino to Orvieto.

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 to Weylandt after a lone bugler played a solemn tribute.

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

Weylandt died on Monday after he 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," said team manager Brian Bygaar.

"We all want to keep going in the race in honour of Wouter Weylandt."

An autopsy on Tuesday showed he died of internal injuries and damage to the base of his skull.

Coroner Armando Mannucci said he died on impact and "had not suffered".

Weylandt's father arrived at Milan's Malpensa airport on Monday along with the Belgian's pregnant girlfriend, Anne Sophie, and his mother and sister.

The rider's father and his Leopard Trek team-mates went to the morgue in Lavagna to view the body.

On leaving the hospital, the family was taken to the scene of the accident where they laid flowers.

Tributes and messages of condolence have poured in for Weylandt, who was due to become a father for the first time in September.

Tom van Damme, president of the Belgian Cycling Federation, said: "We are lost for words. Belgian cycling is in deep mourning.

"My thoughts at this time go to his family, that must find courage."

Isle of Man cyclist Mark Cavendish said on Twitter: "Things like this shouldn't happen. Absolutely sick to the stomach. My thoughts are with his family. RIP Wouter Weylandt."

Britain's Bradley Wiggins also expressed his condolences on Twitter, adding: "Days like this put this great sport we love into perspective, Wouter rest in peace now mate, thoughts are now with the family and friends."

Reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador said: "It's a terrible story and a dark day for the cycling family.

"I want to give all my condolences to the family of Wouter and all his friends and send a message of encouragement and support to the Leopard team and the whole cycling family.

"Regardless of the fact each of us is in our own team, we are all in the same place and this is a very difficult day for the world of cycling."

More than 70,000 people have visited a Facebook page set up in memory of Weylandt to pass on their condolences.

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