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Giro d'Italia introduces Best Descender contest - but will it encourage riders to take too many risks?

Riders will reportedly be timed on 10 segments during this months race, with competition winner declared in Milan

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.

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.

> Chad Young dies in hospital five days after horror crash

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.

> Peloton honours Wouter Weylandt, Leopard Trek pull out of Giro after poignant tribute

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.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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