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Poor weather forced officials to shear two major climbs Monday from the Giro d’Italia’s “queen stage”.
Race officials have altered the route of stage 16 to bypass two climbs — Passo Fedaia and Passo Pordoi — after cold weather and rain descended on northern Italy.
The new stage route retains what was supposed to be the day’s last climb at Passo Giau (2,226m), and will conclude after a 17km descent at the planned finish line in Cortina d’Ampezzo in the valley below. The distance is reduced to 155km.
“In my opinion, there was a chance to do the entire stage, but of course with the weather conditions, we decided to take two climbs out to keep the race going,” race director Mauro Vegni told reporters at the start.
“What we really wanted to do was not just go out and ride along, we wanted to have a proper race. So, we thought that we would take that decision to cut those big climbs out to avoid any sort of problems with riders. We wanted to make a proper race today. Hopefully, we’ve made the right decision. It’s difficult to stop the race once it has started.”
There was discussion between teams, riders, representatives, and race officials Monday morning before the scheduled start, and the decision was taken to reroute the stage and delay the start by about 30 minutes.
“We tried to find a way to have the whole stage, the riders wanted to do the whole stage, we wanted the weather to be better, but unfortunately it has got worse,” CPA representative Christian Salvato told Eurosport. “Maybe we could have got over with no problems but there was also a real problem with the weather and the race might have had to stop. Of course, we didn’t want anything like the Milano-Sanremo again. I wanted to do the stage and the riders wanted to be able to do the stage, too, but we thought it was too much of a risk.”
The original stage design of 212km would have tackled three colossal climbs in the Dolomites along with an early climb, and represented one of the most difficult stages in the 2021 Giro. Passo Pordoi at 2231m was the “Cima Coppi” as the highest point of the 2021 Giro route, with Fedaia topping out at 2,050m.
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 24, 2021
The reduced route will tackle the Cat. 1 La Crosetta climb in the opening 25km, and detour around the removed climbs, and head straight up the Giau before descending to Cortina.
“It changes the dynamics of the stage quite a lot. Makes it less of a race of attrition and it will come down to that final climb,” said Nick Schultz (Team BikeExchange). “Staying safe is a priority. With the stage being shortened, it will make for an aggressive start.”
Several crashes have blighted the 2021 Giro so far, and there was concern that inclement weather could create hazardous racing conditions for the peloton.
Last year, a stage was reduced following a rider protest in light of cold, wet conditions.
That’s in contrast to 1988, when the peloton raced up and over the snowbound Passo di Gavia.
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) May 24, 2021