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Giro d'Italia

Stetina: Giro’s downhill prize glorifies risk-taking

American Peter Stetina speaks out against the Giro's best descender prize, which has been drawing the ire of the peloton.

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Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) added his voice to a growing uproar surrounding the new descending prize at the upcoming Giro d’Italia.

The American will be riding to support Bauke Mollema during this year’s Giro, and he was surprised to learn that the race will feature a new prize for the best descender.

While the idea might seem interesting to some, many within the peloton reacted negatively to what some say would only enhance the Giro’s dangers.

“This seems like a short-sighted move from someone who doesn’t understand racing. Have they considered that myself or my colleagues could become collateral of an idiot racer’s bad choices in chasing this prize (remember Barguil and Thomas in ’15 TdF)?” Stetina wrote in an e-mail message. “There are many more variables besides one guy descending a mountain at his limit. A rider will have to pull dangerous maneuvers around others, in the name of seconds, putting both at peril. So now I am entered in this competition without a choice.”

The new competition was spotted just days ahead of Friday’s start of the Giro. Dubbed the “Pirelli Premio Miglior Discesista” —the best descender — includes 10 timed segments along the racecourse, with prize money for each day’s winner and an overall prize at the end of the Giro.

Opposition to the new prize is growing within the pro peloton. Several high-profile riders reacted on Twitter, including Team Sky’s Wout Poels, who wrote: “Life-threatening idea to give a prize to the best descender in Giro? I hope this is a joke. What about safety?”

Stetina is familiar with the effects of a bad crash. He suffered a horrible spill during the 2015 Tour of the Basque Country that almost ended his career when he impacted a metal pole left in the roadway in the final sprint of a stage. After months of recovery, he was able to resume his racing career.

On Monday, he questioned the safety concerns linked to the 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 wrote. “Let’s not set up competitions where those mistakes can have fatal consequences. We witnessed this in 2011 (Wouter Weylandt) at this very race and the organizers should have the decency to honor his memory with safer protocol, not by glorifying dangerous risk taking.”

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