The Giro d'Italia peloton's concerns over the length and poor conditions of stage 18 were dismissed the night before the race, leading the riders to protest on the morning before the start, Lotto-Soudal's Adam Hansen has revealed.
The 39-year-old, who is riding his 29th Grand Tour, was spotted meeting UCI commissaires and Giro race director Mauro Vegni before the start of stage 18, with the first 130km of the 258km route subsequently cancelled and riders instead driving in their team buses to the new start line.
Chaos ensued as riders rolled out Morbegno in the rain to stop shortly after, forced to wait for their team buses to return, having already set off for the finish in Asti.
"Just to clear things up. This [proposal to shorten the stage] was presented yesterday with today's stage being super long in the rain with our immune system suppressed while in a pandemic. It was not accepted," Adam Hansen, who acts as the riders' representative to the CPA cyclist's union, said on Twitter during his transfer to the new start.
"This morning when all the riders were under the tent no-one went to the start line and riders started to not accept this and a protest started to happen. It was nice to see the riders sticking together as a whole. We negotiated with the organisers to shorten the stage so the race could still happen. We are all happy to do so. We will all do our maximum to put on a show today."
Despite reports from Italian television that Ag2r La Mondiale and Lotto-Soudal were the two teams pushing for the stage shortening, Larry Warbasse has said all teams were involved, in a now-deleted tweet.
"Every team was involved not just us, not sure where they got that info," the Ag2r rider said, before hitting back at those who have criticised the decision to shortern stage 18. "Seriously? Have you ever done three back-to-back six-hour days with more than 4,000m climbing, and then thought it was a good idea to back it up with another six-hour day in freezing rain?"
Rai Sport has suggested both Ineos Grenadiers and Bora-Hansgrohe wanted to race the full length of the course today, with Ineos and Tao Geoghegan Hart keen to test the legs and spirit of Wilco Kelderman who lost a lot of time yesterday despite taking the maglia rosa. Arnaud Démare also told L'Équipe that his Groupama-FDJ were prepared to ride the full length.
Ineos' Luke Rowe, who is not currently riding the Italian Grand Tour, supported the decision, backing Warbasse's sentiment that the third week has been too difficult given the time of year and the fact riders are racing through a global pandemic.
"Great move by the riders at the Giro! Stage 19 of the race and they propose a 260km day. For those saying 'they're soft’ or ‘it’s their job’ I bet haven't raced a bike at the top level! Don’t take the piss."
"Great to see the unity of the riders and CPA today. As riders we race against each other but we also all race with each other," Alex Dowsett added.
The non-racing action is not looking to be stopping anytime soon, with the later start producing fresh concerns over how much daylight will remain at the finish, meaning the buses have evacuated the race route for a speedier motoway journey to the start.
Meanwhile, the Movistar bus has suffered a mechanical problem en route.
This has meant the Spanish team's riders have been transferred to their race cars in full kit to make the start line in time.
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