Should the race have been neutralised? Views on stage 9 of the Giro.

Yesterday after a race which alternated between dull and fairly dull the 100th Giro d’Italia finally ignited. However even after some great performances from Nairo Quintana, Tom Dumoulin and Thibault Pinot the main talking point was an incident which happened just before the main action on Blockhaus was about to start.

A police motorbikes, of all things, had inexplicably stopped on the road causing one of the riders in the speeding peloton, presumably only seeing it at the last moment, to clip it, swerve, then go hurtling into the middle of the bunch. The resulting crash caused a number of riders considered to be in with a shout of a good GC result to lose large amounts of time and put them out of contention. The episode left a sour taste in many peoples mouths as they would like to see races decided by riders racing bikes not cops on motorcycles. There were also questions raised over what, if anything, should have happened immediately after the incident.

The most important point to come out of this, and something everyone can agree with, is that it shouldn’t have happened. The motorbike should not have been stationary on the course. If the rider needed to stop they should have found somewhere safe to do so. It is yet another example that the UCI aren’t dealing with a problem that has been causing riders serious injury and to so tragically lose their lives. Throughout the Giro and most other races there seem to be to many motos on the course and they are STILL far to close to the riders. There needs to be a clear set of rules written and applied.

The contention which arose from the crash was over the question of whether the race should have been neutralised immediately after so many riders went down and who should have stopped things if so. The question was asked because there are no written rules governing a situation like this either.

Here are the arguments in favour of the race getting stopped by the race commissaire:

  • There was no breakaway at the time things happened so it would presumably have been easier for things to restart without anyone gaining or losing time.
  • There were three GC contenders that went down so the sporting integrity of the race was at stake.
  • The accident was caused by an outside influence, it wasn’t a racing incident.

On the first point I don’t think the decision of the commissaire should be influenced by how easy it will be to enforce.On the second, it’s also not down to the commissaire to decide on who is a race favourite and who is not. 

The crash yesterday reminds me of two incidents at the 2011 Tout de France. During stage 7 Bradley Wiggins crashed out and the race carried on regardless and two days later Alexandre Vinokourov and Jurgen van den Broeck both had to abandon after a mass crash but the peloton eased the pace so everything could sort themselves out.


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