Chaos reigned at the start of Stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia, where rider protests about the gruelling itinerary eventually resulted in an 11th hour decision to shorten the stage by over 100km. The 251km stage from Morbegno to Asti was first extended to 258km due to a collapsed bridge, but after fierce negotiations riders instead got back into their team buses not far from the official start line – having first ridden through the neutral zone – so that they could be driven to a new start near Milan.
Today’s monster flat stage was scheduled after three successive 200km+ days with the second and third each featuring over 5,000m of climbing.
The physical challenge for the riders has been compounded by the October weather and long transfers at the start and end of every stage.
Many were reportedly unhappy at starting and finishing every day in the dark and there were concerns that the itinerary was increasingly and unnecessarily putting their health at risk.
I know you want to see some racing, but since the last rest day, the riders had super hard and extremely long stages+transfers over 3hrs a day. Breakfast 🚌 - 7hrs 🚴🏼♀️ 🏔+🚌 in the 3rd week of GT. Riders are tired-they are exhausted and it’s not a normal year. #respecttheriders
— Bernhard Eisel (@EiselBernhard) October 23, 2020
Discussions about shortening the stage had reportedly taken place last night, but it was only when riders said they wouldn’t race that a decision was finally taken to do so.
News of rider complaints from the Giro d’Italia. Today was supposed to be the longest stage, but riders and RCS appear to have come to an agreement to shorten. The neutral start has already rolled out, but will stop at KM0.
— Orla Chennaoui (@SportsOrla) October 23, 2020
The riders’ union, the CPA, thanked race organisers RCS for the move and expressed a commonly-held belief that the change would have little if any negative impact on the quality of racing.
Thanks to the jury and the #Giro organiser for listening to #CPA request. The #health is the priority, especially in this #COVID period. Reducing today's stage will not diminish the show, but will allow the immune defenses of the #riders not to be put at greater risk.📸Monguzzi pic.twitter.com/1ZKmVq8CdR
— CPA Cycling (@cpacycling) October 23, 2020
The race itself seemed to imply that weather conditions were a key factor.
Considering the weather situation the race has been neutralized at Km 8. Will follow updates on the restart.
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) October 23, 2020
Remarkably, even after boarding team buses, the riders still didn’t actually know where the new start line would be.
It has since reported that the new start will be in Abbiategrasso, to the west of Milan, which would mean a stage of around 107km in length with a probable start time of 1.30pm.
Great move by the riders at the giro! Stage 19 of the race and they propose a 260km day. For those saying ‘their soft’ or ‘it’s their job’ I bet havnt raced a bike at the top level! Don’t take the piss 👊🏻
— Luke Rowe (@LukeRowe1990) October 23, 2020