Riders stage go-slow protest during Giro stage in Milan

Giro news logo 2009

Today's Giro d'Italia stage in Milan was supposed to be a showcase event - a criterium circuit lined with the city's race fans all out to watch the pros in action, and to celebrate the Giro's centenary.

Just prior to the stage start, the organisers announced that there would be no time gaps awarded and no time bonuses given, leaving the way free for the sprinters to strut their stuff. The stage was set.

However, things didn't quite go to plan as the riders decided to make a protest and take it very easy around the tight city centre circuit. The race conditions were made worse by parked cars at the side of the road, effectively funnelling the riders into a narrow ribbon.

Race leader and vice president of the Italian riders' association, Danilo Di Luca, said that they'd carry on but would not race.

"We're sorry for the public but the circuit isn't safe," Di Luca said. "We don't want to risk anything."

The riders concerns were justified and come after two days of incidents. During yesterday's stage, Spanish rider Pedro Horrillo crashed badly and tumbled down the side of a mountain sustaining horrific injuries. He was airlifted to hospital and only came out of a coma this morning.

After the previous day's stage (Friday), many riders had aired their disgust at the slippery descent into the finish town - none more so that Lance Armstrong who commented via his Twitter feed: "I've seen it all now. 25 mile fast decent to the finish. In the pissing rain. Makes no sense. The boys in the bunch are livid."

Giro d'Italia race director Angelo Zomegnan was less than sympathetic to the riders' pooping of his party.

?I think that when a race starts it has to finish," Zomegnan said. "People stop when they don?t know where they?re going.

?Before the race started we agreed with them to neutralise the times to avoid more adrenaline in the sprint. It was a good decision, especially after what happened yesterday but I was the first to cancel all the celebrations at he finish in Bergamo.

"If this circuit is dangerous then the Amstel Gold Race and Ghent-Wevelgem should be cancelled too. They?ve betrayed the public and I hope that they start to race seriously soon.

"It?s true there were other technical finishes in Mayrhofen and Chiavenna but we changes the road and took our roundabouts.

"If they don?t want to race we?ll take some decisions this evening," Zomegnan concluded tersely.

Former professional rider Mario Cipollini was at the roadside in Milan, and spoke to Italian TV about the protest.

"I don?t know details of why the riders are protesting but they?ve had some difficult finishes so far in the race," Cipollini said.

"I?m not a rider anymore, I?m a tifoso and in Milan, and the tifosi deserved to see a spectacular day of racing. I think they could have protested differently, without being so aggressive. I think there are bigger problems that need to be sorted out."

"I?ve raced in the centre of Milan several times and the road seems okay. The last kilometre is also straight, so I can?t see the reason to protest today. I know there was a nasty accident yesterday and safety is important but it?s not respectful to protest like that at the centenary Giro."

Full stage report and photos later today

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Giro d'Italia 2009 links

Stage reports

Stage eight: Siutsou makes it two in a row for Columbia-Highroad

Stage seven: Boasson Hagen takes treacherous stage

Stage six: Scarponi wins longest stage with big break

Stage five: Menchov wins mountain battle as Di Luca grabs the pink jersey

Stage four: Di Luca denies Soler on the line; Lovkvist takes pink jersey

Stage three: Cavendish loses pink jersey after being caught behind late crash

Stage two: Petacchi denies Cavendish the stage win

Stage one: Cavendish in pink as Columbia prove their point to Garmin

Photo galleries

Stage eight photo gallery

Stage seven photo gallery

Stage six photo gallery

Stage five photo gallery

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one photo gallery

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