RCS Sport chief Mauro Vegni says the responsibility to stop a race falls squarely on the organisers, but it's a difficult decision to know when the weather becomes too much
RCS Sport is watching the weather closely in Paris-Nice. Heavy snow forced its French counter-part, ASO to cancel Wednesday’s stage three and quickly send the competing cyclists away in team cars. With the UCI’s new Extreme Weather Protocol in place, RCS Sport’s cycling boss Mauro Vegni says that it is still unclear when to stop a race.
Bad weather marked several of Vegni’s races recently. Snow forced RCS Sport to shorten Milan-San Remo and cancel a Giro d’Italia stage in 2013, caused controversy in the 2014 Giro stage over the Stelvio, and made for a beautiful, but cold, backdrop to Tirreno-Adriatico’s Terminillo summit finish last year.
“I’m going to say how perplexed I am [with the extreme weather protocol],” Vegni told Cycling Weekly.
“You can start off today with a clear blue sky, no worries, and then the situation changes on the road. You don’t have time to meet and discuss things. The protocol helps to give indications, but the final decision comes down to the organisers.
“The responsibility in every sense, economical, political, and even the penal point of view if something should happen, is on the organiser. The organiser has to work with the police, they have to guarantee the safety, and then the medics, because if the medics say that those conditions can be excessive for a rider, then I have to stop the race. There’s no choice.”
The UCI’s protocol introduced for 2016 calls for a meeting between the stakeholders if the weather looks bad prior to a race, but lacks guidelines for when conditions worsen during the race.
Watch: How to ride in wet weather
In the 2013 Milan-San Remo, heavy rain turned to snow south of Milan and the organiser scrabbled to organise before stopping the race. It asked the teams to send back their buses, which were already en route to the San Remo finish, so that the riders could have a warm shelter on the roadside.
Vegni expressed sympathy for ASO and its decision to cancel the race in the Beaujolais hills. “I won’t stand here and judge others. It happened to them, but next it could be us,” he said.
“I know that it’s never easy to stop cyclists in the middle of a road because cyclists are sweating, cold. If you don’t provide them with buses or something, you are at risk of getting everyone sick. Even when you decide to stop the race, you still need to have time to organise things.
From the Thursday in Tuscany, he could see the Apennine Mountains and the snow on top. On Sunday, the race is due to climb 10 kilometres to finish on Monte San Vicino at 1208 metres. The forecast shows rain and temperatures around 5°C.
“If you climb in the snow and rain, cold, and then you have to descend, it becomes difficult,” Vegni said.
“Also last year on Terminillo, they did two to three kilometres of suffering in the cold, but no more. Instead, if they had to confront that earlier in the stage, it would’ve been truly difficult. The rain began nine kilometres out and the snow at two kilometres. Those are not extreme conditions.”
Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) soloed away from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) in the whiteout conditions to win the stage. The win helped him take the overall victory two days later.
Vegni shook his head. He laughed about the weather and how it has played a role in his races, especially RCS Sport’s crown jewel, the Giro d’Italia.
“Every now and then, I’m asked again about moving the Giro d’Italia on the calendar. It’s not true, I’ve never asked to do so,” Vegni said. “Someone continues to say that I’ve asked for this. And if I had to chance the date, I’d put it in July!”