Tirreno-Adriatico organisers’ decision to implement Extreme Weather Protocol well in advance of the stage 5 start on Sunday, cancelling the race because of heavy snow at the finish, drew almost universally positive reactions from teams and riders today, but Astana manager Alexandr Vinokourov also asked organisers to add an uphill finish to Monday’s stage so the pre-race favourites could have a “real chance” at overall victory.
“We appreciate the attention of the Tirreno-Adriatico organisers to ‘ensure the health and safety of the riders,’” Vinokourov said in a statement published Saturday evening on the team’s website.
“In reason of the fact that there is not an alternative race route for tomorrow stage, we ask, at least, to change the Monday stage finish to an uphill finish,” Vinokourov said. “This request is to give all the riders that are participating to the race a real chance to challenge for the final victory. I do this request directly to the race director, Mauro Vegni, because I think it is a reasonable request for not to frustrate the efforts that all the champions did to prepare this race."
Shortly after Dimension Data’s Steve Cummings won stage 4 on Saturday with a daring late solo move, race organisers RCS Sport announced that Sunday’s stage would not take place due to a risk of snow on the climbs and especially at the finish atop Monte San Vicino in the heart of the Marche region. Race organisers said the back-up plans that had been put in place were also impossible to use because of more expected bad weather.
The 178km fifth stage from Foligno to Monte San Vicino would have taken riders over four categorized climbs before the summit finish. Instead, Tirreno-Adriatico will continue on Monday with the 210km stage from Castelraimondo to Cepagatti, a route that is significantly flatter and would normally favour a breakaway or sprint finish. Tirreno-Adriatico concludes Tuesday with a flat 10.1km individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.
Etixx-QuickStep’s Zdenek Stybar currently leads the general classification by nine seconds over a trio of BMC riders, including Damiano Caruso, Greg van Avermaet and Tejay van Garderen. Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali is 11th overall, 24 seconds behind Stybar.
The Italian was obviously hoping to make up his deficit during Sunday’s mountainous stage, but that plan is suddenly outdated. Nibali also voiced his frustration via a Twitter update.
“I am saddened by the cancellation of the stage to @TirrenAdriatico,” Nibali wrote on the social media platform. “I aimed at the podium, it will be for another time ....”
Etixx-QuickStep CEO Patrick Lefevere was happy with the organisers’ decision, praising RCS Sport in a statement published on the team’s website.
"This is an important step for cycling, because it's probably for the first time in the history of this sport that such a wise decision is taken before the start of a race, a decision which came as an agreement between all the stakeholders,” Lefevere said.
“I would also like to underline the courage of the race organisers who have agreed to cancel such an important stage and put the riders' safety first, ahead of any interest. Tirreno-Adriatico definitely sets an example for the future," Lefevere said.
BMC’s Van Avermaet also praised the organisers’ courage in making the decision well in advance of the scheduled stage start.
“I think it’s a good decision if you hear there is snow at the top of the mountain and weather conditions are like they are and they don’t give a good forecast,” said the Belgian winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. “I think that the race director had some balls to make the decision. I think they made a good point and it’s good for the riders.”
BMC director Max Sciandri also praised the decision.
“I really respect the decision of RCS to cancel the stage and think about the safety of the riders,” he said. “We hear so many times about riders safety, and once an organization has made that decision it can only be, from my side, grateful respect.”
As for missing out on a chance to move van Garderen into the race lead during Sunday’s cancelled Queen Stage, Sciandri said the team was prepared and motivated, but BMC will focus on Monday and Tuesday.
“For sure we were prepared,” he said. “Everybody could see the team is riding really strong and is really motivated and ready, and we were ready to fight tomorrow, but we’re not skiers, we’re bike riders.
“I think all of our training and preparation will be put in on Tuesday at this point. We’ve got a hard stage to do and we’ve got a relatively hard but long stage on Monday, and we’re just going to look forward.”
Orica-GreenEdge, which has general classification riders Esteban Chaves and Adam Yates sitting further down the general classification, 34 seconds back in 19th and 20th, respectively, also agreed with the move to cancel Sunday’s stage.
"It is a wise decision to cancel stage 5 as we were definitely going into snow and freezing conditions," said Matt White, the Australian team’s director.
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