CASTELFIDARDO, Italy (VN) — Several team managers met with Giro d’Italia officials before the start of Wednesday’s stage to express concern about the Monte Crostis descent set for stage 14 on Saturday.
Topping the agenda for team directors is that riders will not have vehicle support during the harrowing descent in what will likely be the most important stage of the 2011 Giro.
Giro officials say the road is too narrow to handle all of the team cars, so team vehicles will be routed around the Crostis descent, leaving cyclists with only the support of mechanics riding on motorcycles.
“We had a meeting to express our concerns, but like everything in the Giro, the decision is already made,” Garmin sport director Lionel Marie told VeloNews. “There are 20km without support for the riders — that’s crazy! But that’s the Giro. Tomorrow I will go to inspect the course to see if for myself and we can determine how we can handle the stage.”
Riders met with Giro director Angelo Zomegnan on Sunday to express their growing concerns about safety. Zomegnan soothed their fears by showing them a video and photos of safety measures that the organization has introduced — such as ski-race netting, mats and new pavement — to assure the wary riders that they will not plunge off a side of a cliff if they crash on the narrow descent.
Those efforts seemed to have mollified the peloton, who have promised to race the full stage so long as there’s good weather. Riders have hinted that if it’s rainy, windy or snowing, they will refuse to ride down the narrow, twisting downhill section.
“I believe they’ve made a big effort to improve the security. They’ve paved part of the descent and have smoothed down the rest, but I also have to ask how far do you have to go? It will a little chaotic. The team cars cannot go down and there will be a lot of uncertainty,” said race leader Alberto Contador on Wednesday. “If they do it, there won’t be a big problem, but if they don’t manage to meet the necessary requirement, then they shouldn’t be doing these types of things.”
While the safety issue seems to have been satisfactorily addressed, team officials are worried about leaving their riders isolated without mechanical assistance. Mechanics will be placed along the descent, but it’s unclear when team cars will be able to reconnect with the peloton, if at all.
The Zoncolan climb is also raced without car support. Tunnels along the route are too low and narrow to allow team cars a clear passage, so mechanics will be under the gun to try to move bikes and wheels down the Crostis descent and then up the Zoncolan climb only via motorcycle. Teams will also be placing personnel along the road, similar to what happens at Paris-Roubaix, but it’s sure to be a very tense situation for anyone who has a mechanical issue.
Dario Cioni (Team Sky), who is also a rider’s rep for the UCI’s management committee, said riders are already uneasy about racing the Crostis descent. He said additional concerns about access to mechanical support will only heighten the nerves going into the Dolomites.
“We don’t think it would be fair that someone could lose the Giro because they might break their bike on the Crostis descent and not have access to support,” Cioni told VeloNews on Wednesday. “The riders are not so happy about it. The safety issues have been addressed, but logistically, it could be a big problem. Someone could lose the Giro right there.”
Perhaps that heightened tension, uncertainty and chaos is just what Zomegnan has in mind. It certainly isn’t letting the peloton sleep an easier at night.