Vegni hits back at criticism from Nibali after Tirreno-Adriatico stage cancellation

Italian explains complex process behind organising major races

Mauro Vegni, the head of cycling at RCS Sport and the organiser of Tirreno-Adriatico, has hit back criticism at the decision to cancel Sunday’s queen stage to Monte San Vicino.

Forecasts of snow and low temperatures on the climbs and especially at the finish failed to materialise on Sunday afternoon, leading to riders and spectators questioning the decision to cancel the stage.

Vincenzo Nibali openly questioned the decision on Italian television and his coach, Paolo Slongo, went as far as suggesting the Astana team could consider changing Nibali’s race programme if there was a risk that the key mountain stages of the Giro d’Italia could be cancelled because of the application of the UCI Extreme Weather Protocol. Former professional rider Max Lelli, who now works as a television commentator for Italian television, was also critical of the decision, suggesting RCS Sport should have organised a mountain time trial to replace the cancelled stage.

Vegni seemed genuinely saddened and disappointed by the criticism, pointing out that the decision – taken by the race organisers but also the UCI and representatives for the riders and teams, was made to safeguarded the health and safety of all the riders, plus the people who organise the race and the public who may have been out along the route.

“I’d like to make a simple comparison with what happened at Paris-Nice. Alberto Contador failed to win by just four seconds after a stage earlier in the race was cancelled because of extreme weather. Yet I don’t think Alberto complained, he accepted it as part of the sport,” Vegni told journalists in the press centre in Metalica, the town at the bottom of the Monte San Vicino climb after a testing 24 hours.

“I’m not bitter about what Vincenzo has said. I really admire him, he’s a great rider and it’s great that he’s always honoured our races. However he needs to think of everyone’s interests, not only his own. It’s also important to point out that we don’t decide the race thinking of just one rider. He needs to respect the people who are working for the interests of everyone.

“The truth is that cancelling the stage cost us a hell of a lot. Both in terms of the lost racing and even revenue. The total loss we suffered, including the lost TV rights, the lost stage town income and other losses is around 250,000 Euro. We obviously would want to avoid that if we could and so we don’t understand why people have criticised us. We would have loved to see the stage happen but it was just not possible this time.”

A complex decision

Vegni explained that a decision on the stage had to be made on Saturday evening, even if there was a chance the weather would turn out not be as bad as was forecast. Vegni has lost the power to order the riders and teams to race on in bad weather under the rules of the UCI’s Extreme Weather Protocol but he explained that the decision to cancel the stage was simply due to the expected bad weather.

“It would be easy for me to ‘blame’ the Extreme Weather Protocol for cancelling the stage but the truth is that the weather conditions for the stage had to be considered on Saturday evening. The key factor was if there was good or bad weather, it’s not about who is part of the Extreme Weather Protocol and what their opinion is. Everyone involved talks openly but every decision is based on the risk of bad weather and rider safety,” he explained.

“The forecasts said the temperature would drop four or five degrees and that it would snow above 700 metres. Those conditions didn’t allow us to host the stage, the finish or even the Plan B route. Rather than find the race and the riders in the middle of a difficult situation, I’d rather cancel the stage. I mean that out of respect to the riders too.

“The photos we issued yesterday of the finish showed the real conditions up at the finish. During the night the temperatures didn’t drop and so the snow melted. But we had to make a decision yesterday. We couldn’t wait until Sunday because the local authorities had to arrange for the hundreds of volunteers and police officers along the route. You can’t improvise things like that or suddenly come up with a different race as an ex-pro suggested.

“If you’re an ex-pro and work for a television channel you’ve got to explain things in full, otherwise people won’t understand. But if that ex-pro says something stupid then it only causes further problems.”

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