Tadej Pogačar at the start of the Giro d'Italia's stage 16.

Riders stand firm and force Giro d’Italia stage 16 shortening due to extreme weather

A compromise from race organisers to ride a neutralised start was dismissed by the peloton, who will now drive to the new start of the shortened 121 km stage.

Confusion reigned and snow fell on the route of the Giro d’Italia’s stage 16 as riders stood firm in light of the extreme weather and eventually forced the day’s route to be shortened to 121 km.

The freezing cold and snowy Umbrailpass, the highest peak of this year’s race at 2,498 metres and already a replacement for the removed Stelvio, was slated for the start of the stage but has been removed after riders unanimously agreed to not race unless the Umbrailpass was taken out of the day’s route.

Stage 16 will now start at 2 pm local time from Spondigna for a 121 km stage that will take in the first category Passo Pinei en route to the second category summit finish at Monte Pana.

A number of possible contingency plans had been drawn up the day before should an extreme weather protocol be needed, with possible neutralisation and extra measures such as a third team car being allowed in the race convoy to ensure riders had adequate clothing. A “parking zone” at the top of the Umbrailpass was also mooted, which would have neutralised the race for three minutes to allow riders to change clothes.

A Lidl-Trek rider at the start of the Giro d'Italia's stage 16.

At the stage start in Livigno, race organiser RCS maintained the full route would be completed but with the race neutralised until after the Umbrailpass, which the riders protested, before another plan was hatched to roll out of Livigno for 10 km and then jump in team cars to head to the new Spondigna start line for the race proper. That suggestion was also not agreed to and so all riders eventually left the Livigno start line in vehicles to head to Spondigna.

Towns, such as Livigno, pay race organisers money to host stage starts and finishes, and contracts will likely include stipulations that if for whatever reason the stage can’t start or finish in the town as intended, the race will return for free the next year. Today’s alteration will have cost RCS money, which is why they were so keen to have riders on the road in the start town as originally planned.

Race director, Mauro Vegni, told TV broadcaster RAI after the decision had been made: “The mountains are like this, sometimes you have to face certain situations. Our decision certainly hasn’t been an improvised one, it was foreseen by the protocol established yesterday.

“We tried to provide additional safety measures for the riders but we agreed that if the conditions worsened we would have avoided the Umbrailpass. And that’s what happened, it would have been stupid to take on certain risks, especially on the descent. 

Hugo Hofstetter at the start of the Giro d'Italia's stage 16.

“Obviously if you ask the riders if they like riding in rain and snow, they’ll say no. Everybody has his point of view and that’s normal. For our part, we hope they are satisfied because we went through this entire discussion.”

Slightly earlier that morning, when the final decision was still up in the air, fourth-placed overall Ben O’Connor (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) was slightly less diplomatic when faced with the prospect of riding in freezing conditions on slippery roads.

“It’s probably one of the worst organised races I think and I’m just being honest. This would never happen in 99% of other situations,” he told Eurosport.

“It’s just a shame that it is 2024 and you have dinosaurs who really don’t see the human side of things. I would still like to ride the stage but I don’t want to ride over 2, 500 metres. It is already five degrees and pouring rain and at 2,500 metres it is already snowing. I think it is only clear you should just start a touch lower and do the finish.

“I’d like to see [Vegni] in our position, go outside on the bike and do the start of the stage and see what his answer is after those couple of hours.”

An anonymous poll conducted by the CPA (22 votes) revealed that 100% of riders voted to skip the climb (and descent) of the Umbrailpass the morning before the stage start. “This collective devision highlights the seriousness of the situation and the need for immediate action,” CPA President Hansen tweeted. “The riders’ steadfast position underscores their commitment to their health and safety and integrity of the race.”

Scenes from the start line:

A Polti-Kometa rider at the start of the Giro d'Italia's stage 16.
A Polti-Kometa rider tries to keep his feet dry as he heads towards sign-on.
Romain Bardet at the start of the Giro d'Italia's stage 16.
Romain Bardet looking … cold.
Intermarché-Wanty at sign-on at the start of the Giro d'Italia's stage 16.
Intermarché-Wanty looking cold and miserable.
UAE Team Emirates at sign-on at the start of the Giro d'Italia's stage 16.
UAE Team Emirates making light of the conditions and also getting in some practice ahead of a possible Umbrailpass descent.
The start of the Giro d'Italia's stage 16.

What did you think of this story?