Behind them at a respectful distance rode the mourning pack, which had taken more than eight hours to complete the 237 kilometres [148 miles].
After an emotional start in Tarbes the intention of the 121 riders was clear. They stood in silence for a minute, black patches on the left arms of the Motorola jerseys, joined by the Tour leader, Miguel Indurain, his yellow jersey bearing a black emblem.
The Tour left town, led by the Motorola leader, Lance Armstrong, the former world champion, with less than the usual fuss and noise as crowds applauded sympathetically. There would be no winner, just a day of remembrance for this father of four months, who became the third fatality in the 92 years of the Tour.
The day's prize fund of F225,000 francs [pounds 30,000], an amount the Tour organisers doubled, would go to his family at the riders' request, and Motorola also announced that their Tour winnings would be given to Casartelli's widow, Annalisa.
Britain's Paul Sherwen, a Motorola team official, summed up for the saddened squad. "We will finish as a team, which helps make the pain easier to bear," the former Tour rider said.
The world No 1, Tony Rominger, has one goal. "I just want to go to Paris. I am not interested in winning Saturday's time trial. What is victory after what has happened?"
Behind the tears there was anger. The outrage of the five-times Tour winner, Eddy Merckx, when the podium ceremony went ahead hours after Casartelli's death was echoed throughout the Italian media.
"It was as though that fatal streak of blood on the tarmac did not exist," Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said. "The usual celebrations at the end of the stage were nothing short of disgraceful."
"It was revolting," said an editorial in the Italian daily, La Repubblica, "that the usual ceremony was conducted at the end of the stage as if no one had died." Most anger was directed at French television for showing mortuary attendants wheeling away the covered body.
Today Casartelli's funeral at his home village of Albese, near Como, will be attended by Merckx, another five-times winner Bernard Hinault, and Casartelli's British team-mate, Sean Yates, who left his 12th and final Tour because of injury.
In 1967 Barry Hoban found himself alone as the pack dropped back in reverence to his team-mate Tom Simpson, who had died on the Ventoux mountain. A tearful Hoban rode into the Sete finish.
The record books show him as a winner, but yesterday's 16th stage produced no official result. Only a remembrance.
TOUR DE FRANCE Stage 16 (Tarbes to Pau, 237km, 148 miles) Leading overall standings (all riders given same time for yesterday's stage): 1 M Indurain (Sp) Banesto 77hr 42min 03sec; 2 A Zulle (Swit) ONCE +2:46; 3 B Riis (Den) Gewiss-Ballan +5:59; 4 L Jalabert (Fr) ONCE +6:26; 5 I Gotti (It) Gewiss- Ballan +9:52; 6 M Mauri (Sp) ONCE +13:02; 7 F Escartin (Sp) Mapei Clas +14:03; 8 H Buenahora (Col) Kelme +14:07; 9 C Chiappucci (It) Carrera +14:35; 10 R Virenque (Fr) Festina +14:54; 11 T Rominger (Swit) Mapei Clas +15:41; 12 L Madouas (Fr) Castorama +17:22; 13 M Pantani (It) Carrera +20:54; 14 P Lanfranchi (It) Brescialat +23:01; 15 A Mejia (Col) Motorola +30:33; 16 B Hamburger (Den) TVM +31:05; 17 B Cenghialta (It) Gewiss-Ballan +31:08; 18 V Ekimov (Rus) Novell +42:40; 19 E Breukink (Neth) ONCE +43:44; 20 V Aparicio (Sp) Banesto +46:08. GB: 53 M Sciandri (MG Technogym +1:54.29.Reuse content