Bjorg Lambrecht: Cycling world pays tribute to young Belgian star who died after crash at Tour de Pologne

The cycling world is still coming to terms today with the tragic death of Bjorg Lambrecht during yesterday’s Tour de Pologne.

The 22-year-old Lotto-Soudal rider died after hitting a concrete culvert two-thirds of the way into the 155.5km stage from Chorzow to Zabrze.

Lambrecht was taken to hospital but died during surgery.

Tour de Pologne race organisers last night confirmed today’s fourth stage would be reduced to 133.7km and will be neutralised.

All teams starting this morning sported black armbands and the Lotto Soudal team rolled off the start in a line to pay tribute to their teammate.

Tributes have poured in from across the sport with riders, sports directors and team bosses struggling to come to terms with the news.

Lambrecht’s Lotto-Soudal team boss Marc Sergeant said he couldn’t find the words to describe the tragedy.

He tweeted: “I didn’t find the words yet because they don’t exist. I am confused about the loss of @Borg_Lambrecht, such pain for his family and friends and for us as a family.”

Teammate Victor Campenaerts remembered how Lambrecht had helped him during a training ride just two weeks ago.

In a post in Dutch on Instagram, the World Hour Record holder said: “Bjorg, do you remember two weeks ago? I had all the trouble in the world to follow the pace of the group during training.

“It was physically and mentally difficult for me. You turned around and drove back to me, you said ‘we’ll do this together!’.

“It was a pleasure to be your teammate for two years. I cherish all beautiful moments. It goes well with you Bjorg!”

British sprinter Mark Cavendish, who is riding the Tour de Pologne with his Dimension Data team, described yesterday as an ‘incredibly sad day’.

He added: “Rest in peace Bjorg. May your star continue to shine as brightly as it di in cycling.”

Deceuninck Quick-Step sports director Brian Holm drove past the scene where Lambrecht had crashed.

He told Cycling News: “We saw that he’d fallen, you don’t know what to do – if to stop or not – but we thought we’d best leave it to the doctors.

“Somehow I could see with all the people stopped you knew it would be bad.”

He later tweeted: “No words… Rest in peace Bjorg.”

Lotto-Soudal sprinter Caleb Ewan tweeted simply: “The worst news you can get. RIP Bjorgske.”

Teammate Nikolas Maes said: “Bjorg, you’ll always stay on my mind as the little talented guy with the disarming smile. RIP @bjorg_lambrecht and all my thoughts go out to his family and nearest friends.”

Enzo Wouters posted a picture of the pair together from yesterday morning at the team hotel and wrote: “Life can change so quickly… In the morning together at breakfast and a few hours later… R.I.P. Bjorg.”

Lambrecht’s Belgian Philippe Gilbert also tweeted his condolences, saying: “A big talent, but an even greater guy. So deeply saddened about this tragic loss. My condoleances to family, friends and everyone of the @Lotto_Soudal team! #RIPBjorg.”

His teammate, Italian sprinter Elia Viviani, who yesterday confirmed a move from Deceuninck Quick-Step to Cofidis, added: “Speechless. When tragedies like this happen, I remain helpless trying to understand how fragile we are, doing every day the thing we love most. My thoughts go to his family and friends. Rest in peace Bjorg.”

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Yesterday’s stage was won by Bora-Hansgrohe’s Pascal Ackermann after Deceuninck Quick-Step’s Fabio Jakobsen was disqualified for a push in the final sprint, although all post-race protocol was quite-rightly cancelled after news of Lambrecht’s death was confirmed.

After the finish, Ackermann said: “Today, the result of the race doesn’t matter. I was devastated to hear today’s tragic news and I would like to personally send my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Bjorg Lambrecht and everyone at Lotto-Soudal.”

His sentiments were echoed by Patrick Lefevere, boss of Deceuinck Quick-Step.

He tweeted: “Disqualification is not important in confrontation with the dramatic news about @bjorg_lambrecht @Lotto_Soudal @marc_sergeant no words to express my sadness. My condolences to the team, teammates and family.”

Ghent-born Lambrecht was seen as one of the great young hopes of Belgian cycling and had recently signed a new two-year contract with Lotto-Soudal.

He started out with the team’s development squad and racked up a number of impressive results including a stage and all the various classification jerseys at the 2016 edition of the Ronde de l’Isard.

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He followed that up the following year with victory in the under-23 version of Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finished second behind this year’s Tour de France winner Egan Bernal at the Tour de l’Avenir, which is seen by many as the ‘baby Tour de France’.

Last year he claimed his first senior victory with a stage win at the Tour des Fjords, where he also finished second overall on GC.

This season he enjoyed a fruitful Classics campaign, finishing fourth at Fleche Wallonne and enjoying top-six finishes at De Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race.

But perhaps his biggest result was winning the young rider classification at this year’s Criterium de Dauphiné.

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In a field packed with Tour de France hopefuls, Lambrecht finished 12th overall, just 3:17 down on overall winner Jakob Fuglsang of Astana, while in the white jersey competition, he finished almost 12 minutes ahead of Jumbo Visma’s Neilson Powless.

We’ll never now know just what Lambrecht would have gone on to achieve but his star was certainly shining brightly.

The thoughts of everyone at Allez! Allez! CC are with Bjorg’s friends, family and everyone at Lotto-Soudal.

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