Giro riders criticize fans in ‘crazy’ Messina stage
Bob Jungels smiled as he put on the Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey at the end of stage 5 in Messina, Italy. He was happy. More so, he was relieved to finish safely after a stage that he and other riders characterized as “dangerous.”
Wednesday’s stage raced into Vincenzo Nibali’s Sicilian hometown. As such, fans turned out in droves to see the race favorite and twice former champion. The crowds swarmed a six-kilometer finishing circuit in the city center. At times, those seeking selfie photos or simply a closer look at the riders crowded the race course.
“It was a dangerous and crazy final to be honest. I’m super happy that Fernando [Gaviria] took the victory, but it cost me a lot of nerves here in Messina,” Jungels said.
Other riders were not so lucky. Dimension Data’s Kristian Sbaragli took to Twitter after the race to complain about the fans. He said one overeager spectator hit him while trying to take a photo. Fortunately, the Italian did not crash and finished sixth.
The concerns raised after stage 5 harken back to the 2014 Tour de France, which started in Great Britain. There, enthusiastic fans also crowded narrow roadways, drawing criticism from the riders.
“It was amazing to see so many people on the streets, but it’s also sometimes very dangerous because people want to take the pictures and selfies and whatever, and they come closer and closer to the road,” Jungels added. “When there’s a bunch of 200 people [cyclists] it’s dangerous, but that’s cycling.”
To make matters worse, the Giro’s first five stages were nervous due to windy weather. Sardinia hosted stages 1-3; Tuesday’s stage 4 and Wednesday’s stage 5 took place in Sicily.
“All of the risks of road racing tend to be amplified when we race on islands, no matter where we are,” said BMC director Max Sciandri. “The winds are often strong, or gale force like on stage 3, and come from all directions, the roads are narrow and we rarely find nice smooth surfaces, so as a result we see a lot of crashes.
“A small crash can make a big impact on the race as we saw with Rohan Dennis’s crash on stage 3. That’s not forgetting Silvan Dillier’s crash on stage 1, and over the last five days we have seen a lot of riders go down from all of the teams. On the other hand, it’s always nice to race on the islands where the scenery is beautiful and you can race in all different kinds of conditions, from flat terrain to the mountains.”
As the peloton heads to Italy’s mainland for Thursday’s stage 6, its riders will breathe a little sigh of relief but remain wary of the remaining 15 days of racing.
Andrew Hood contributed to this report.