Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac) and Damiano Caruso (BMC) opted not to start the final stage of the Tour of the Alps on Friday, despite being fifth and eighth respectively in the overall classification, only 31 and 42 seconds behind race leader Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).
The two Italians were among six riders who did not start the final 192km stage to Trento that included the mighty Monte Bondone climb. David Villella (Cannondale-Drapac), Stefan Denifl and Lawrence Warbasse (Aqua Blue Sport), and José Mendes (Bora-hansgrohe) were also absent in Smarano before the start.
All six riders are expected to ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday but their decision to quit the Tour of the Alps a day early sparked criticism and debate, especially surrounding Formolo and Caruso, who were still overall contenders.
Several other riders in action at the Tour of Alps will also ride Liege on Sunday. They will travel to Belgium after today’s final mountain stage as other riders have done in recent years. Domenico Pozzovivo, third overall, will be part of AG2R-La Mondiale’s squad built around Roman Bardet, while Pete Kennaugh has been named in Team Sky’s line up for the final one-day Classic in the Ardennes.
Both the Cannondale-Drapac and BMC teams defended their decision via Twitter.
Cannondale-Drapac wrote: “Fielding questions about Formolo's #TotA withdrawal. Both he and Villella were non-starters for one extra day of recovery before #LBL.”
BMC wrote: “#TotA @CarusoDamiano will not start today to allow him to recover well from four tough days of climbing before his next races.”
The Tour of the Alps organisers were not happy to see a raft of strategic retirees but did not want to comment, preferring to focus their attention on the riders left in the race and the close battle for overall success between Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).
Under UCI rules, a rider who quits a race cannot compete again until that race is complete, unless he or she has special dispensation. The rule was created to dissuade riders from quitting a race so they can compete elsewhere, though in this case there is a gap between the end of the Tour of the Alps and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. There are no specific rules about strategic retirement from races, as teams have the right to pull riders from races if they are fatigued or injured.