Weather Causes More Disruption at Giro as Stage 13 is Shortened

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

The chaos on this year’s Giro d’Italia just won’t quit. The race has been badly disrupted by multiple cases of Covid and, especially, continuous rainfall that has caused many crashes and withdrawals. On Friday, as rain continued to lash the course, and much of Italy, organizers shortened stage 13 by more than half, to 76.4km, from the original 199km. The stage had already been slightly shortened earlier because of snowfall and a risk of avalanche on the Category 1 climb to the Passo Gran San Bernardo. That mountain was now totally erased from the stage.

In a statement, race organizers RCS Sport said, “Given the adverse weather conditions, especially on the Italian side, the Commission decided to meet the athletes’ requests by applying the Extreme Weather Protocol. Stage 13 will be shortened with the new km 0 being set at Le Chable, at the bottom of the Croix de Coeur. The final part of the stage remains unchanged. The race will follow the original timetable.”

Riders appeared for the unofficial start in the morning, in pouring rain, only to ride a few hundred meters to waiting buses that took them to the new start line 500 meters from the foot of the Croix de Coeur, in Switzerland. The problem with this solution was that, as Eurosport reported, 19 of the 21 teams wanted to avoid that climb because of the long, steep descent from it over an iffy surface made slippery by rain and snow.

The riders’ wariness was understandable, given the number of withdrawals because of crashes. And two days earlier, on a descent in the rain on stage 11, an outside favorite for the GC, Thomas’s teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart, crashed and fractured his rib. Thosmas also went down in that incident, as did as pre-race favorite Primož Roglič, but they were not hurt.

The new president of the professional riders’ union CPA Adam Hansen said  that the riders “wanted to start at the start like original and ride the full course and miss Croix de Coeur, as that was at the moment of rain combined with the coldest temps at the time of the voting.” However, he added, the majority of riders accepted the counteroffer from RCS Sport.

Current race leader Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) said it was a good compromise. “There was a big chat last night with the CPA,” he told Eurosport. “All the teams voted on what they wanted to do. To be honest, I think it’s a good decision. I think it’s still going to be a super-hard stage. It just means we’re not in this cold, wet weather for even longer. We’ve seen so many guys going home with sickness, so if we want to get to Rome with at least 50 guys, it’s a good decision.”

But not everyone agreed. Gianni Moscon (Astana Qazaqstan) told the Italian broadcaster Rai Sport, “It’s true that there’s bad weather, it’s true that we’re tired but I don’t think there were the conditions to shorten the stage. For me, you could ride. Then if someone wanted to stop, they could. We are not ordered to be professional cyclists. If we don’t like it, we can change jobs.”

Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) told journalists, “I don’t fully agree because one of the main reasons that we didn’t want to do the middle climb was because the road surface on the downhill was potentially dangerous and we wouldn’t have time to put [bad weather] clothes on.”

However, the original restart time of 2.15 p.m. was not met, as teams hustled to unload equipment and their riders warmed up on stationary cycles. The race finally kicked off at 3 – and 20 minutes later it began to rain. Still, most of the descent from the Croix de Coeur was dry and everyone came down safely.

The stage was won by Einer Rubio (Movistar) after a thrilling uphill battle with Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Jefferson Cepeda (EF Education–EasyPost). And, to repeat: no one crashed – though stage winner Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) did abandon the race because of illness.