Disorganisation in the crucial moments of the Tre Valli Varesine saw an elite group with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Michael Woods (EF Education First) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) led astray and away from victory in Varese, Northern Italy.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) celebrated on the podium with riders stemming at the finish line due to the disorganised closing kilometres. When the misled group crossed the line, all Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) could do was applaud ironically. He and others followed the lead motorbike the wrong way around a roundabout at 15km remaining while Roglič and the others behind sped away towards the win.
“We knew immediately [we had gone the wrong way], but at 65kph it’s difficult to just turn around,” Daniel Martin (UAE Team Emirates) said on Twitter. “There was no signs or arrows pointing the way. No marshals.”
The organiser said that arrows were in place, but part of the problem was that the final used the same roundabout several times, each going different ways. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) joked that they needed a GPS to navigate their way.
“I knew we were going the wrong way, down towards the lake,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “What can you do? we were off to ride a scenic loop around the lake!”
Martin, Nibali, Woods, Valverde were some of the riders in an elite group that also included Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida).
The “unusual, unacceptable incident ruined” their chances, said Movistar. Roglič, winner of the Vuelta a España and the Giro dell’Emilia 72 hours earlier, was chasing behind in a group at just 40 seconds. At 15km to race, the Nibali group had no time to correct the organiser’s mistake and rejoin the lead. Teuns said, it was “bye-bye chances for a good result.”
“I don’t want to put anyone on the cross, but errors like this are not acceptable,” said Bahrain-Merida sports director Alberto Volpi.
“When a race is run over different laps on the same course, the chance of a mishap increases,” Jens Zemke, sports director for Formolo’s team Bora-Hansgrohe said.
“It’s a shame that it happened like this, because with Davide in the Italian champion’s kit, we had expected somewhat more.”
No one could argue the merits of Roglič’s win. When he attacked the group in the final metres, he did so with a punch that would have been difficult even for the misled riders to follow. But one never knows, not even Roglič.
“In the end, I was lucky that the leading group took the wrong turn,” Roglič said. “Otherwise, I would not have been able win.”
The Alfredo Binda group organises the race. President Renzo Oldani said: “I’m massively upset, left with a bitter taste in my mouth, but we have a worthy winner. The mess had to do with the excitement in that final phase, I think we shouldn’t blame anyone.”