By Nigel Wynn
Controversy has surrounded the decision by Giro d'Italia race organiser RCS Sport to introduce a competition for the best descender in this year's race.
The 'Pirelli Premio Miglior Discesista' consists of a cash prize of €500 awarded to the quickest rider on 10 timed downhill segments of the 100th edition of the Giro.
In addition, prize money will also be awarded at the end of the race to the quickest riders down all 10 segments overall. The overall winner will receive €5,000 from a total prize pot of €15,000 for the competition, sponsored by tyre manufacturer Pirelli.
Some riders have condemned the prize, branding it as a "life threatening idea", particularly in the light of the recent death of 21-year-old American rider Chad Young, who crashed on a descent in the Tour of the Gila.
Young suffered a severe head injury and died in hospital five days after the incident.
Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt died after crashing on a descent during the 2011 Giro d'Italia. The race number 108 has been permanently retired from the race in his memory.
Many see the descending prize as an enticement for riders to take unnecessary risks during the race, endangering themselves and possibly others.
Trek-Segafredo rider Jasper Stuyven said on Twitter: "@giroditalia seriously?! If this true you should be ashamed... aren't there already enough crashes? Clearly you only care about sensation."
Team Sky's Wout Poels said: "Life threatening idea to give a prize to the best descender in Giro? I hope this is a joke? What about safety?"
Jos Van Emden of LottoNL-Jumbo added: "Please don't do this @giroditalia. A 3 week race through Italy is enough spettacolo!"
According to the Giro d'Italia race regulations the following 10 descents will be included in the best descender competition: Monte Sant’Angelo (stage 8), Chieti (stage 9), Monte Fumaiolo (stage 11), Colla di Cassaglia (stage 12), Selvino (stage 15), Passo dello Stelvio (stage 16), Passo del Tonale (stage 17), Passo Pordoi (stage 18), Sella Chianzutan (stage 19) and Monte Grappa (stage 20).
The 2017 Giro d'Italia starts in Sardinia on Friday, May 5, and concludes three weeks later in Milan on Sunday, May 28.
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