This year’s 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia will feature a competition for the best descender -prompting social media users to ask whether it might put riders in danger by encouraging them to take risks.
Blogger Inner Ring posted brief details of the competition to Twitter, later clarifying the source as the rule book for the race, which starts on Sardinia this Friday.
New for 2017, Giro has prize for best descender sponsored by Pirelli. Riders timed on 10 segments. Prize + points, & overall winner in Milan
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) May 1, 2017
The competition is a new one for 2017, and the financial prizes on offer said to be smaller than those for the main classifications.
However, several people on Twitter have suggested it is irresponsible to offer prizes at all for the fastest descent, given the death of Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt in a crash on the race in 2011 and, just last week, Chad Young dying from injuries sustained at the Tour of the Gila in the US.
— Lennart Klein (@klein_lennart) May 1, 2017
@inrng To me this seems perverse for the Giro to promote and encourage the fastest descents, given WW's accident in 2011 on the Passo del Bocco.
— Martin Williamson (@VeloVeritas1) May 1, 2017
@inrng I immediately thought of 2011 and #108, poor judgement by the Giro (at best)
— John Fyfe (@EarlstonLoon) May 1, 2017
Leopard-Trek rider Weylandt, aged 26 and winner of a Giro d’Italia stage in 2010, died instantly when he crashed into a wall on a descent during Stage 3 of the 2011 race from Reggio Emilia to Rappallo.
The following day saw one of the most emotional stages ever in the Giro’s history with racing neutralised and teams taking it in turn to lead the peloton until finally the Belgian’s Leopard Trek team mates, plus his close friend Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Cervelo, crossed the line in Livorno arm in arm as one.
Despite his death, and those of other riders killed after crashing while descending, including Motorola’s Fabio Casartelli in the Pyrenees during the 1995 Tour de France, there have long been calls for organisers of races to offer a descender’s jersey as well as one for the best climber.
The argument goes that it takes a lot more skill to descend rapidly than it does to climb; similarly, there is a school of thought that there should be some kind of combined mountains jersey that takes account of both the ascent and the downhill section – although that would favour climbers given there would be no descent after a summit finish.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.