Nairo Quintana (Movistar) should have been able to revel in his maglia rosa worthy performance on the Giro d’Italia’s Queen stage. Instead, a dark cloud sits over the day, after confusion over whether the race was neutralised.
The Colombian claimed, along with fellow escapee Pierre Rolland (Europcar), that he was unaware of any neutralisation. However, many riders seemed to be under the impression that there would be no attacks on the descent of the Stelvio. Some even stopped completely, at the top, to put on more clothing.
As the peloton headed up the Stelvio, the highest point in the entire race, race radio issued the following message to the teams in Italian, French and English.
“Attention: A communication to directeur sportives. The management of the organisation have planned to put ahead of the head of the riders, depending on the situation, of course, after the top, to place in front of various groups an organisation moto with a red flag. All to avoid having attacks on the descent and after this to ensure that the riders remain in their positions and to prevent taking big risks and, for all, to remain in this position until the security agents lower the red flag.”
The word neutralise was never used in the communication and it was clear from the first rider over the top, Dario Cataldo, that there was no attempt to neutralise the descent. However ,many riders and teams, including that of race leader Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), understood it to mean that the race would be neutralised on the 25-kilometre ride to the bottom.
This belief was likely compounded by a Tweet on the race’s official tweeter feed stating: “Stelvio descent neutralised due to snow.” The tweet was later deleted, but not before some fans were able to take a screen grab of it.
After the race, organisers RCS denied that they had ever intended on neutralising the descent of the Stelvio. RCS sport boss Mauro Vegni, said that the confusion was down to misunderstanding on the side of the teams and riders. “No one ever spoke of neutralization. To protect the riders, in conditions of poor visibility we decided to place the bikes to indicate the trajectory.”
Whatever the interpretation of the message, there is no doubt that the debate will rumble on for some time.