Stage 13 of the Giro d’Italia was shortened to just 74.6km, with a stalemate and stand-off between the GC contenders producing no change in the battle for the maglia rosa on what should have been one of the decisive stages of this year’s race.
Yet the stage could be remembered as the day of historic compromise between the riders, teams and race organisers RCS Sport.
The decision to cut the Col du Grand Saint-Bernard from the stage, travel 130km by bus into Switzerland, and just race over the Croix de Coeur climb and up to Crans Montana angered many, especially the roadside fans in Italy, but may prove to be the turning point of the race.
Race leader Geraint Thomas confirmed that if RCS Sport and the UCI officials had not agreed to cut the stage, the riders could have gone on strike. That would have sparked a huge deterioration in the rider-Giro d’Italia relationship and led to the polemics and protests overshadowing the racing.
One well-informed source suggested to Cyclingnews that if relations had spiralled out of control, the Giro d’Italia could have even struggled to reach the finish in Rome. A historic compromise kept the Corsa Rosa on the road.
“At the end of the day, it’s us, the riders, who go out there and put our bodies on the line, race down dodgy descents in the cold and wet and get sick,’ Thomas argued, confirming a strike was possible.
“If the organisers hadn’t listened, it might have gone that way (a strike), but fortunately, there was a good discussion, and both sides compromised. That’s what worked well. Both sides were happy at the end of the day.”
Many on social media and in Italy, including former Giro d’Italia winner Stefano Garzelli, who works for RAI television, came out against the decision and so against the riders, who voted with 19 teams in favour and three against.
Pier Augusti Stagi, the influential editor of Tuttobiciweb said that the riders had called wolf, that the weather was not too bad and that the Giro d’Italia organisers had made a mistake by giving in to the riders.
With the riders having faced almost daily rain so far in the Giro d’Italia, and more mountain stages and perhaps testing conditions to come, veteran Giro d’Italia race director Mauro Vegni could only bite his lip, compromise and agree to the change.
“I have to say it’s never easy to find an agreement because everyone has their own interests. My interest is the Giro,” he said.
The power of a union
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