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MORI, Italy (VN) — Heavy snow across the mountains of northern Italy has forced Giro d’Italia officials to cancel Friday’s 19th stage.
Organizers made the decision before 10 a.m. local time, citing adverse weather conditions and snowfall on the roads.
Bad weather had already prompted Giro officials to re-route Friday’s course in an attempt to salvage a critical day of racing. On Thursday evening, both the Gavia (2,618 meters) and Stelvio (2,758m) were taken out.
In their place were the Passo del Tonale (1,883m) and Passo Castrin (1,706m) in a new 160-kilometer route that pushed east and then north. But everyone woke up Friday morning to discover snow and ice on Tonale, and there were reports of snow on the upper reaches of the finish line at Val Martello (2,059m).
Riders across the peloton breathed a sigh of relief. Reaction was near universal that the organizers made the correct call.
“Looking at the snow this morning, and the weather forecast, my question was, ‘how could you have possibly have a race?’ To race, to be healthy, and have a good race, to make it safe for everyone; that’s quite impossible. The organizers did the right thing,” said Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). “What can we do? We cannot control the weather.”
Instead of racing, riders and staff piled into team buses and cars and drove toward their scheduled hotels for Friday night. Most were planning a light training ride on what turned out to be a third rest day at the Giro.
“I’d say the boys are relieved + content w/ the decision that was made. No one wants to deal with conditions like this,” said Julian Dean, an assistant sport director with Orica-GreenEdge, via the team’s Twitter feed.
The UCI also supported the move.
“The organizers have put the security of riders first and the UCI supports their decision,” UCI president Pat McQuaid said. “The riders have been racing in very difficult conditions this week, but today those conditions are just too extreme.”
The weather cancellation will have major implications on the GC battle as the three-week Giro winds down.
Friday’s stage was one of two decisive mountaintop finishes that, under normal conditions, would have shaken up the overall standings.
Following his stage victory in Thursday’s climbing time trial, race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has a solid grip on the pink jersey, now 4:02 ahead of Evans.
The battle for the podium and some of the other classifications, such as the points and white jerseys, are far from settled.
Rigoberto Urán (Sky) is in third, just 10 seconds behind Evans, while Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) is within range of the podium in fourth at 1:12 behind Evans.
“Tomorrow is going to be an important day. Because we’re not racing today, it will be an even more important day,” Evans said. “We need to train and recover, and be at a our best for tomorrow.”
Following the cancellation, officials altered Saturday’s “queen stage” across the Dolomites. What was supposed to be a five-climb, 203km course tackling five high mountains was reduced to a more modest route.
The first three climbs of Costalunga, San Pellegrino, and Giau were removed because of snow and bad road conditions. Instead, the peloton will travel through the Brunico and Dobbiaco Valleys before tackling the two remaining climbs from the original route, the Category 2 Passo Tre Croci and the Cat. 1 Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
The new route measures 210km. There is, however, more inclement weather in Saturday’s forecast.
The 96th Giro is scheduled to end Sunday with a flat stage from Riese Pio X to Brescia.
Some information from AFP was used in this report.