By Hedwig Kröner
Professional cycling racer Jens Voigt (Team CSC), who has recently taken on the position of active riders' representative within the ProTour Council (CUPT), has rejected the idea of the two half stages on the final day of the race - but that was before the Grand Tour was presented in Milan this Saturday. Interviewed by Cyclingnews on Friday, November 11, Voigt said that the Professional Riders' Association (CPA) had taken a firm stance against the plan, just as their Italian counterpart.
"On Wednesday, the CUPT passed on a request from the Giro d'Italia to do two half-stages on the last day of the race," the German explained. "I rejected it in the names of the riders, for a lot of reasons: Half-stages require a lot of time and effort, and for what? For a three kilometre-time trial, and half the prize money. You're working from 7 am until 8 pm for all the transfers and warm-ups, and that on the last day of a three-week stage race! It's nonsense.
"While I probably won't ride the Giro, I can't imagine that the participating riders will like the idea," Voigt continued. "They'll want a normal stage with the start at ten or eleven in the morning, and a finish at five. Of course, I can understand the organiser: it would be great for the public, and there are two stage towns, each paying their rights to host the race. But I'm in charge of the riders' interests, and those are the ones I defend."
Contacted again on Sunday after the presentation of the 2006 route, Voigt hadn't checked his new e-mails yet, but was surprised that Giro organiser RCS still decided to make the half stages happen. "[ProTour manager] Alain Rumpf had sent me a message that the request was rejected, so in my mind it was off the table," Voigt said. "But now it seems that the organisers went ahead with it... There's still some time left before the start, so we'll see what will happen. But it looks like they might get away with it this time, as it is now already official."
Meanwhile, RCS director Angelo Zomegnan told Italian media that he knew very well that half stages are not allowed in three weeks Grand Tours by the UCI. "The mountain time trial is a way to honour the Ghisallo, with the Ghisallo museum inaugurated that very same day," Zomegnan said. "If the UCI doesn't give us the permission to carry on with it, we will find another way to honour the mountain and its museum."
Watch out for the full interview with Jens Voigt coming up soon on Cyclingnews.