“Ridiculous”, a “circus”, “dinosaurs”: tensions and controversy for the start of the 16th stage of the Tour of Italy cycling

“Ridiculous”, a “circus”, “dinosaurs”: tensions and controversy for the start of the 16th stage of the Tour of Italy cycling

Polémique autour du départ de la 16e étape du Tour d'Italie. ANSA – LUCA ZENNARO

Initially scheduled for the Livigno ski resort, this Tuesday, May 21, the start of the 16th stage of the Giro was moved to the valley and pushed back three hours to avoid riders having to take the Giogo di Santa pass. Maria where the snow was falling heavily. This decision was taken at the end of a very confusing morning which turned into a standoff between the runners and the organizers.

"We do the stage if they do it in a convertible": amputated by the snow, the 16th stage of the Tour of Italy gave rise to a new standoff between riders threatening to strike and organizers who want to maintain the race at all costs.

"Ridiculous", a "circus", of the "dinosaurs": the runners did not mince their words towards the RCS organizers on Tuesday in Livigno, a Lombard ski resort where the start was due to take place this mountain stage and where there was great confusion in the middle of the snowflakes.

We had known for a few days that the weather was likely to be bad and the legendary Stelvio pass had already been removed from the route. On Monday evening, as the threat intensified, RCS released a new protocol including three options depending on the conditions.

The second, long favored, provided that runners could change clothes at the summit of Giogo di Santa Maria, the "replacement" of the Stelvio perched at an altitude of 2,498 meters, where the race would be neutralized for three minutes. and "clownesque".

The tension rises a notch again on Tuesday when the riders' union CPA publishes a letter, signed by "100% of the riders" according to its president Adam Hansen, to the race director Mauro Vegni who is threatening a strike if the Giogo di Santa Maria was not canceled.

"We must show our unity"

But the race management remains inflexible, continuing to campaign for a start in Livigno, a city which pays dearly to host the Giro. She even offers runners to climb the first pass "blank", race neutralized. "If that's it, we won't start. We must show our unity for the future of cycling", fumes Michael Valgren.

French climber Valentin Paret-Peintre also protests: "it's ridiculous. Either they (the organizers) have never ridden a bike, or they haven't thought about it. We do the stage if they do it in a convertible."

"I can run if they want, adds the pink Tadej Pogacar jersey, more diplomatic. But I hope there won't be an accident we'll regret later. The safety of the runners must be respected. The descent is really dangerous. Let's see what they decide."

But, as the rain turns to snow, the discussions drag on and no one knows when and where the departure will take place, giving rise to ludicrous scenes.

Snowmen

"We're going to make snowmen", laughs Julian Alaphilippe who is discovering the Giro, an event often subject to the vagaries of the weather due to its place in the calendar.

At 11:52 a.m., RCS finally sent a press release announcing that the riders were going to take the fictitious start at… 11:50 a.m. in Livigno, "just to make pictures&quot ; according to French runner Benjamin Thomas, before cycling to the new start in Lasa via a tunnel, rather than the pass.

But at 11:50 a.m., no runners showed up. They are all in their cars, bikes on the roof rack, ready to go to the new start, but warm and not pedaling.  "Despite our agreement and a handshake, the athletes did not show up", regrets RCS in a press release. Finally , the motorcade sets off for the new start of the stage (reduced to 118 km), now scheduled for 2:25 p.m., leaving in its wake the impression of a huge mess.

"The problem is that in the mountains the climate can change very quickly and you have to wait for the last moment to make a decision", defends race director Mauro Vegni, believing he has found "a fair compromise that satisfies everyone&quot ;.

This is not really the opinion of the Australian Ben O'Connor, fourth in the general classification: &amp ;quot;I would love to see it in our place. It's 2024 and we still have dinosaurs incapable of taking the human side into account. It's one of the most poorly organized races in the world."

The runners finally set off on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. from Lasa, their new starting point, for a distance of 118.4 km. They drove to the new starting point where they got on their bikes in the open countryside in front of a gas station to head towards Santa Cristina Val Gardena.

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