The morning after stage 5 of the Giro D'Italia, the stage that included 19.3km of strade bianche, riders were still in shock because of the danger they had felt. Garmin-Cervélo's experienced captains Matthew Wilson, Brett Lancaster and David Millar talked to Cyclingnews about the future of Grand Tour routes at breakfast in their hotel in Orvieto.
"To ride on gravelled roads uphill is fine, flat is fine," commented Australia’s Wilson.
"But there was some hairpin turns in a steep downhill and a long descent for about ten minutes. I saw two crashes; I thought I should have seen more. What people don’t see on TV is the guys chasing to get back on. How many cars are there behind the riders? More than fifty! I’ve had cars passing me on the dirt, stones flying and hitting me."
Wilson, Millar and Lancaster, all in their thirties, have experienced enough of cycling and the classics in northern Europe to be complaining about tricky routes lightly.
"There’s a big difference between riding on the strade bianche for a one-day race and in the middle of a Grand Tour," Wilson said.
"If you don’t know how to ride on these roads, you don’t do the strade bianche race in March, you may not finish. But some riders come here for GC and are not prepared for these roads."
"At the strade bianche in March, there’s a bunch of about 100 riders, not 200 like at the Giro," echoed Lancaster.
"Races have to be attractive and spectacular to catch the audience but race organisers have to find a balance," Millar said. "I believe [race boss] Angelo Zomegnan is going to make the right decision. We’ll all learn what the limits are."
"Without downhill sections, to have stages on gravelled roads is fine," he insisted. "But our concern is the downhill of the Monte Crostis, the climb preceding the Zoncolan on stage 14. We’ve heard they’re netting the road side to catch us in case we fall. Some corners are on cliffs and we can easily go off road."
"We’re in talks with Zomegnan about that," he added. "RCS is sending somebody to check it out. Once Zomegnan has the info, he’ll take the right decision. He’s totally open [to changes], which is good. We’ve agreed on a zero risk policy."
Following the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt during stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia, Zomegnan listened to the riders and let them choose the way to honour the memory of their colleague. It led to the decision of teams swapping turns during the procession of stage 4, which helped the race to re-start normally.