The Tudor Pro Cycling and Intermarche teams as well as several cyclists from other outfits withdrew on Saturday from the Tour of Switzerland following the death of Swiss cyclist Gino Maeder.
Maeder, who rode for Team Bahrain Victorious, fell into a ravine in the downhill finale of Thursday’s fifth stage and succumbed to his injuries aged 26 on Friday.
His team withdrew on Friday and they were joined by Swiss outfit Tudor and Belgian rivals Intermarche prior to Saturday’s seventh stage.
In all 36 riders did not take part in the stage — an 184-kilometre ride from Tubach to Weinfelden — and those who did observed a minute’s silence whilst a dove was released as a further tribute.
The withdrawals came despite organisers saying they had decided to proceed with the remainder of the race after consulting both the teams and the rider’s family.
Tudor, though, tweeted it could not carry on.
“After careful consideration and talking to both riders and staff, the team decided not to continue racing this year’s Tour de Suisse,” Tudor tweeted.
“Under these difficult circumstances we feel it is the human way to respect the feelings of our riders and pay respect to Gino,” it added.
Intermarche followed suit.
“After consultations with our riders and staff, we have decided to withdraw from the Tour of Switzerland,” Intermarche posted on social media.
“Our priority is to respect the mental health of our riders.”
Following the news of his death, the cyclists took part in a 20km ride in his honour replacing the sixth stage.
Organisers however decided against cancelling the tour altogether.
“After an emotional day and a very touching ride in memory of Gino Maeder, it was decided in consultation with the family of Gino Maeder that the Tour of Switzerland will continue,” the race director Olivier Senn said Friday.
– ‘Really tough’ –
Organisers said on Saturday the stage will be raced normally although the overall standings will be frozen 25km from the finishing line.
“We respect the decision of each team and the individual riders which aligns with what we had predicted,” organisers told AFP.
“There will be a race over the original planned route but the times for the overall standings will be taken at the 25km to the finish mark (prior to the final climb of the stage).”
World road race champion Remco Evenepoel had made it plain that those racing on Saturday were planning more to go through the motions than compete for victory.
“The remaining race favourites agreed to refrain from attacking today,” he said.
Evenepoel summed up the riders attitude to still be racing.
“Today will be really tough for us in the peloton to focus, to start the stage,” he said.
“However, we respect the decision of his family, and his team to resume the race.
“But it will be with a different mentality, with other feelings.”
Maeder’s death sparked many tributes led by two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar, who posted on Instagram: “Rest in peace (heart icon) I will miss you.”
Pogacar’s fellow Slovenian and recently-crowned Giro d’Italia winner Primoz Roglic tweeted: “Speechless.”
The eighth and final stage Sunday is a 26-km time-trial between St. Gallen and Abtwil.