Giro d'Italia
Steven Kruijswijk descending during last year's...

Giro cancels controversial best downhill rider competition after backlash

The Italian grand tour decides to scrap a classification that could have encouraged unnecessary risk taking on descents.

The Giro d’Italia decided to cancel its controversial best downhill rider classification after catching heat for including it in this year’s race.

The Giro, which begins Friday in Alghero, announced in a press release Thursday morning there will not be a competition for who can descend the fastest during the Italian grand tour.

“Race organizers have decided to eliminate all such classification and prize money as per the race regulations, leaving the timekeeping of the descents purely as statistical data for the fans,” the statement reads.

Descending is perhaps the most dangerous part of professional cycling, with riders plummeting down mountain roads — often narrow and twisty — at hair-raising speeds that can reach 60mph. Critics of the best downhill rider classification, which would have been sponsored by Pirelli, said it could lead to riders taking unnecessary risks that could potentially lead to crashes.

American Peter Stetina, racing the Giro for Trek-Segafredo, said this week there is no place in cycling for “glorifying dangerous risk taking” via a downhill rider prize.

“Professional athletes are entertainers, and fans love to witness their seemingly superhuman capabilities. But they are human. They are husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, and friends. They are capable of making mistakes,” Stetina said. “Let’s not set up competitions where those mistakes can have fatal consequences. We witnessed this in 2011 at this very race and the organizers should have the decency to honor his memory with safer protocol, not by glorifying dangerous risk taking.”

Here’s the Giro’s full statement on what it dubbed the Pirelli Premio Miglior Discesista:

The spirit of the initiative was to highlight an important skill which is an integral part of a cycle race without putting the riders’ safety in jeopardy. Rider safety is, and remains, the priority of the Giro and the race organizers.

Comments have been made suggesting that this initiative could be potentially misunderstood and generate behaviors not in line with the safety principle. The race organizers have taken these comments on board and change an initiative that could be misinterpreted.

Therefore the race organizers have decided to eliminate all such classification and prize money as per the race regulations, leaving the timekeeping of the descents purely as statistical data for the fans.

Listen to our discussion of the Giro’s best descender prize on the VeloNews podcast: