Giro riders ask: Is this a joke?
In what appears to be an attempt to attract more viewers to watch the Giro d’Italia, organizers of the Italian cycling race on Monday announced a controversial new awards category for riders who make the fastest descents.
“For each timed downhill stretch, the fastest rider will be awarded with a prize of €500,” the new rule states (via The Inner Ring). “At the end of the Giro, the general classification will be issued, based on the sum of the points achieved by each rider, and the following prizes will be awarded: 1st €5,000; 2nd €3,000; 3rd €2,000.”
The new classification, which is sponsored by the tire company Pirelli, immediately ruffled feathers in the cycling community.
Dutch cyclist Wout Poels, who rides with Britain’s Team Sky, decried the idea as “life-threatening” and noted on Twitter he hoped it was a joke.
Fellow Dutchman Koen de Kort, who rides with the Trek-Segafredo team, echoed those remarks on social media, calling the idea “ridiculous.”
Cyclists are unhappy because, while world cycling’s governing body has been attempting to make the sport safer, the addition of a competition that’s designed to encourage riders to ride even faster down steep descents appears to be making it less safe.
To support their point, some cyclists alluded to crashes during descents that have proven deadly. Germany’s Marcus Burghardt, who rides for Bora-Hansgrohe, tweeted to the race itself, reminding organizers of the crash that killed Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt at the 2011 iteration of the Giro d’Italia.
Estimated to have been going around 80 km/h, Weylandt crashed just a few kilometres from the finish line of the third stage of the race when he apparently contacted a guard rail, which sent him on a collision course with a wall. He is believed to have died upon impact.
Cyclist Lindsay Bayer, also chimed in, calling the idea “incredibly stupid.”
She pointed to Weylandt’s case, as well as a downhill crash resulted in the death of American Chad Young just last week.