Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will keep his Giro d’Italia race lead and time gains despite a move from other teams to try and take them away. This morning, team directors and managers met at the start of stage 17 in Sarnonico to decide how to react to yesterday’s Stelvio Pass confusion.
After a meeting this morning, the teams said they asked the cycling’s governing body, the UCI to allow the Giro to take away the time Quintana gained off the snowy Stelvio Pass.
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“The AIGCP has specifically demanded a neutralisation of the time differences at the bottom of the descent of the Stelvio of yesterdays stage,” Luuc Eisenga, president of the teams’ association AIGCP, said in a statement. “The UCI has declined this demand and stated that the results would remain unchanged.”
The Giro d’Italia organiser RCS Sport came under fire for how it handled yesterday’s stage to Val Martello. Though it tried to warn riders of a dangerous descent off of the Stelvio Pass, the message was mixed and resulted in confusion for the teams. At the end stage, Quintana took the leader’s pink jersey from Rigoberto Urán, who lost time on the descent.
“Attention sports directors, due to the situation, the race direction decided to put motorbikes in ahead of the different groups with the red flag raised,” Race Director Mauro Vegni said over race radio prior to the summit. “To avoid that there are attacks in the decent, so that the riders are held in their places and to avoid big risks. [They are] to remain in that situation and to not pass the red flag.”
At the finish, Vegni clarified his message. He said that he did not neutralise the race, but warned riders of the descent and that the motorbikes would guide them down. However, different teams interpreted the radio message differently, and some did not hear it at all.
Various riders, like Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) in eighth overall, stopped at the pass at 2758 metres to dress in heavier clothes. They said that they heard from their teams that the race director neutralised the race. Omega Pharma’s Urán kept going and watched his rivals, but said that he did not see Movistar’s Quintana slip away.
Quintana escaped in a group of six with Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar). He gained 1-39 minutes by the bottom and at the top Val Martello, he had 4-11 minutes on Urán. It was enough to give him the pink jersey by 1-41.
“Without that escape,” said Urán, “I’d still be in the pink jersey.”
“I saw the motorbike, I was in fifth or sixth behind in the Quintana group over the Stelvio. They went ahead of it, I saw it,” Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) said.
“It’s not fair play because if there is a motorbike, then you have to stay behind the motorbike. It was very dangerous, you could almost not see the road.”
Hesjedal, who moved from 11th to ninth overall, saw it differently. “If you were serious about the race, especially if you’re in the pink jersey, you should have been at the head of the affair, end of story.”
Adding to the confusion for those following at home, the Giro posted on its official Twitter account that the descent would be neutralised. However, it later deleted that message and posted a new one.
“Stelvio descent neutralised due to snow #giro”
The managers and directors would not comment officially after the meeting. Some of the most vocal ones included Jim Ochowicz of BMC Racing, Bjarne Riis of Tinkoff-Saxo, Gianni Savio of Androni and Luca Guercilena of Trek.
They mostly looked to Ricardo Scheidecker, who manages Tinkoff’s technical matters. Scheidecker spoke often. Afterward, he said that Luuc Eisenga, president of the teams’ association AIGCP, would make a statement. It arrived, saying the classification will remain unchanged.
“I think it’s difficult to change the classification after a stage,” added Pozzovivo. “Quintana, even without those two minutes, can still win. This is not going to change anything.”
Updated: Conflicting reports of whether the descent of the Stelvio Pass would be neutralised or not during stage 16 of