Wanty-Groupe Gobert pull out of races following Demoitie death


Wanty-Groupe Gobert have confirmed they have pulled out of the Driedaagse De Panne and two Coupe de France races following the death of Antoine Demoitie.

Belgian cyclist Demoitie died at the age of 25 following an accident in the Gent-Wevelgem cycling classic on Sunday.

Demoitie was struck by a pace motorcycle after a fall near Sainte-Marie-Cappel in northern France.

Wanty subsequently confirmed at a news conference on Monday that the team is not going to take part in the De Panne, while they will also not take the start of the Route Adelie de Vitre and Paris-Camembert due to take place on Friday and Sunday.

"We were very shaken on Sunday night. We read Antoine was dead but [general director] Hilaire [Van Der Schueren] assured us the situation was very serious but that Antoine hadn't died," Wanty rider Roy Jans said. 

"This morning the definitive news came. 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."

Wanty general director Hilaire Van Der Schueren 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 organisation of Gent-Wevelgem asks me for contact details of Antoine's next of kin. Then you know it's very serious. 

"After the race I immediately left for the hospital in Lille. I met Antoine's father who told me the doctors didn't have much hope. After midnight we received the news that Antoine had died. We must process this together."

Demoitie's death has rocked the cycling world with Tour de France champion Chris Froome among those to pay tribute, and The Association of Professional Cyclists called for an urgent investigation into the incident.

However, Wanty's press officer Jose Been was keen to stress that the motorcyclist was not to blame for the tragedy.

"We do stress that this motorbike rider was a very experienced guy and that this was an accident, a very terrible accident but an accident. We do not blame him and it's not our place to blame him," she said.