There was a silenzio stampa from the team managers on the Giro d’Italia following their sometimes heated meeting before the start of stage 17 in Sarnonico on Wednesday, when they discussed what action ought to be taken following the confused events on the descent of the Stelvio the previous afternoon.
As the managers and directeurs sportifs gathered in a front yard on the fringe of town, reporters stood just 30 metres away, watching the debate but unable to listen. Movistar manager Eusebio Unzue could be seen animatedly defending his rider Nairo Quintana’s attack on the way down the Stelvio, a move that paved the way for him to take stage victory and move into the maglia rosa, with Valerio Piva (BMC), Luca Guercilena (Trek) and Matt White (Orica-GreenEdge) also among those to speak at length.
When the impromptu meeting broke up, however, the waiting reporters were curtly informed that the team managers would not make any declarations to the press until the association of teams, the AIGCP, released an official communiqué on the matter.
That statement eventually arrived during the final hour of racing on Wednesday afternoon, and in the apparent absence of an AIGCP website, it was published on the group’s Facebook page, currently followed by 194 people.
The AICGP explained that it had sent a delegation to meet with RCS Sport and the UCI commissaires, and added that "on behalf of ALL teams, the AIGCP has specifically demanded a neutralisation of the time differences at the bottom of the descent of the Stelvio of yesterday’s stage." The request, however, was denied by the UCI and the overall standings remain unchanged.
Neither RCS Sport nor the UCI released official statements regarding the matter.
Speaking after the stage finish in Vittorio Veneto, BMC manager Jim Ochowicz said that he was unaware that the statement had yet been published and declined to field questions on the matter. "We agreed not to communicate about it apart from AIGCP representatives," he said. "Whatever was written is what the position is, but we’re not commenting on it."
At the same time, Trek Factory Racing manager Luca Guercilena and Omega Pharma-QuickStep directeur sportif Davide Bramati – whose rider Rigoberto Uran lost the pink jersey on the Stelvio stage – were appearing on RAI television’s Processo alla Tappa to programme to outline the AIGCP stance on the issue.
"The communication was wrong and liable to be misunderstood," Guercilena said of the message that was relayed on race radio atop the Stelvio, adding that the impromptu measure of having motorbikes with red flags lead the way on the descent was not catered for by existing regulations. "The safety bike is not in the UCI rules."
Outside at the team buses, meanwhile, Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli was still incandescent about the circumstances that had seen his rider Fabio Aru concede so much ground to Quintana and slip back to sixth overall in the general classification, 3:34 off the maglia rosa.
"Race radio was unequivocal," Martinelli said. "The radio information was exactly what was said and there’s no other interpretation. Either that, or Italian isn’t Italian anymore."
Asked if Uran had lost the Giro expressly because of the confusion on the Stelvio, Martinelli said that it certainly hadn’t helped. "Yesterday, if Quintana had started the climb with the other favourites, he would never have had four minutes of an advantage. That’s the truth. It would never have happened. Never," Martinelli said.
"If Quintana had attacked on the final climb, Uran could have responded, or Aru. He might still have won, but not by four minutes, that’s for sure."
The full AIGCP statement:
Following this morning's team managers meeting in Sarnonico, at the start of the 17th stage of the Giro d'Italia, a delegation of the AIGCP met with RCS and the UCI commissaires. On behalf of ALL teams, the AIGCP has specifically demanded a neutralisation of the time differences at the bottom of the descent of the Stelvio of yesterdays stage. The UCI has declined this demand and stated that the results would remain unchanged. Putting procedures above fair-sportsmanship is simply unacceptable and very disappointing. In respect to the fans and cycling as a whole, teams decided to start the stage.
In bike races, teams depend on the information provided by 'Radio Tour', from which the essential information is being forwarded by two-way radio's to the riders. In difficult conditions, this flow of information becomes even more important. Therefore, the information should be consistent, clear and should not leave any doubt. Teams should rely on that all information should have the consent of the UCI chief commissaire. Yesterday, when the circumstances were the most difficult, the quality of the information went below the minimum level. Following the crucial announcement, both the organiser and the commissaires remained absent to correct the situation, where there was still enough time to do so. When asked by the AIGCP, the UCI commissaires have specifically denied to have heard the instructions 'not to attack in the descent' broadcasted on Radio Tour…
In order to have fair cycling, teams need a regulator that applies the rules in a transparent, consistent and fair way. The complete absence of the ability to regulate the race to correct the mistakes, lead to a significant influence on the results in the race yesterday and until the end of the Giro. That should never happen.
The AIGCP is open to discuss with all stakeholders in order to raise the level of regulation during bike races.