Still stunned and saddened by the death of a fellow rider the day before, the 118 remaining competitors in the Tour de France turned Wednesday’s stage into a tribute to the rider, 24-year-old Fabio Casartelli of Italy.
This 16th of the 20 stages in the 82nd Tour de France was not a race. It was a procession. The pack’s leaders decreed beforehand that all riders show solidarity for the memory of Casartelli, and so they remained grouped throughout, traveling at the stately pace of 30 kph (18.6 mph), about 10 kph below their average thus far in the three-week race.
In the same spirit, Casartelli’s six remaining Motorola teammates were allowed to ride out ahead at the finish, and Andrea Peron - a fellow Italian and Casartelli’s roommate with Motorola - was allowed to cross the finish line first and win the stage.
With about 6 miles to go, the rest of the pack let the six Motorola riders move to the front.
The race ends Sunday in Paris.
In addition to the tribute of victory for Peron, Motorola riders were allowed to win the stage’s first sprint and first two climbs. All prizes for the day - amounting to 225,000 French francs (about $45,000) - will be donated to Casartelli’s widow and will be matched by the Tour’s organizers. The Motorola team also said it would donate all its prize money for the three-week race - about 140,000 francs ($28,000) so far - to the widow.
Casartelli’s body was flown back to his village near Lake Como, where the funeral will be held this afternoon.