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Gallery: Storm of controversy as Giro d'Italia finds winter atop Gavia, Stelvio

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Riders stop for warm clothes atop the Stelvio

Riders stop for warm clothes atop the Stelvio
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Dario Cataldo (Sky) on the attack

Dario Cataldo (Sky) on the attack
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The Giro d'Italia headed through wintry weather on the high passes of the Gavia and Stelvio

The Giro d'Italia headed through wintry weather on the high passes of the Gavia and Stelvio
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The peloton endured not only cold, but wet and slick conditions

The peloton endured not only cold, but wet and slick conditions
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Eduard Vorganov (Katusha)

Eduard Vorganov (Katusha)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Cataldo on his own

Cataldo on his own
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders bundle up on their way over the Gavia pass

Riders bundle up on their way over the Gavia pass
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Nairo Quintana, Pierre Rolland and Ryder Hesjedal emerged from the snow on the Stelvio to sun in the valley

Nairo Quintana, Pierre Rolland and Ryder Hesjedal emerged from the snow on the Stelvio to sun in the valley
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) goes on the attack on the Gavia

Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) goes on the attack on the Gavia
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Nairo Quintana still with the maglia rosa on the Stelvio

Nairo Quintana still with the maglia rosa on the Stelvio
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Diego Rosa (Androni) on the attack

Diego Rosa (Androni) on the attack
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ryder Hesjedal gets a head start over the Gavia

Ryder Hesjedal gets a head start over the Gavia
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Michael Rogers gets his jacket on for the descent

Michael Rogers gets his jacket on for the descent
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mick Rogers and Nairo Quintana at the head of the peloton

Mick Rogers and Nairo Quintana at the head of the peloton
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) leads on the Gavia

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) leads on the Gavia
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The fans suffered along with the peloton today

The fans suffered along with the peloton today
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) on the attack on the Gavia pass

Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) on the attack on the Gavia pass
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A Cannondale rider makes his way through the snow banks

A Cannondale rider makes his way through the snow banks
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ivan Basso (Cannondale)

Ivan Basso (Cannondale)
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocattoli) on the Gavia

Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocattoli) on the Gavia
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cadel Evans (BMC) climbs the Gavia

Cadel Evans (BMC) climbs the Gavia
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton in the snow on the Stelvio pass

The peloton in the snow on the Stelvio pass
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The descent of the Stelvio was trecherous with cold rain and sleet

The descent of the Stelvio was trecherous with cold rain and sleet
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A BMC rider on the Gavia pass

A BMC rider on the Gavia pass
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Intrepid fans climbed banks of snow to see the Giro d'Italia pass

Intrepid fans climbed banks of snow to see the Giro d'Italia pass
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A Lotto Belisol rider takes it easy on the descent

A Lotto Belisol rider takes it easy on the descent
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A BMC rider in between tall banks of snow on the Gavia pass

A BMC rider in between tall banks of snow on the Gavia pass
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Snow falls on the Giro d'Italia on the Gavia pass

Snow falls on the Giro d'Italia on the Gavia pass
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Tall banks of snow dwarf the riders atop the Passo Gavia

Tall banks of snow dwarf the riders atop the Passo Gavia
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Riders make their way up the Gavia

Riders make their way up the Gavia
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Riders make their way up the Gavia

Riders make their way up the Gavia
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale) on the Gavia

Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale) on the Gavia
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Movistar in the lead at the top of the Gavia pass

Movistar in the lead at the top of the Gavia pass
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

While Nairo Quintana (Movistar) celebrated his stage victory at Val Martello and pulled on the race leader's pink jersey, the 'polemica' and back story to the epic stage over the Gavia and the Stelvio was playing out in the team car parking area, a hundred metres before the finish line.

Quintana had overturned the race and taken control of the Giro d'Italia but not everyone was happy how he had done it.

Several directeurs sportif from the BMC, Tinkoff-Saxo, Quick Step-OmegaPharma, Trek Factory Racing and Cannondale teams were angry that Quintana, Pierre Rolland, Ryder Hesjedal and other riders had accelerated down the descent of the Stelvio. They claimed the race organizers had neutralized the descent in an announcement via race radio before the summit of the climb, saying that riders should not attack when race motorbikes flew a red flag.

Recordings of the announcement quickly appeared on the internet. While the word 'neutralisation' was not said, the race radio announcer said motorbikes would fly a red flag 'to avoid that there are attack on the descent, to ensure that the riders hold their position and avoid taking huge risks. They should hold that position until the official lower the red flags."

The directeurs sportif told Cyclingnews that they had told their riders to hold back and follow the official race motorbike down the climb. They were angry that Quintana and the others riders ignored the instructions and attacked, taken extra risks on the descent to gain time.

Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzue was the target for much of their anger, while others blamed race organizers RCS  Sport for causing confusion by making the announcement in the heat of the race and at the snow-covered summit of the Stelvio.

A tweet by the official Giro d'Italia account saying the descent had been neutralized only confused things further even if race radio is the official source of in-race information.

Race director Mauro Vegni refuted that the race organization had done anything wrong.

"There was low cloud on the first six or seven hairpins of the descent of the Stelvio so you couldn’t get a sense of the bends. To protect the riders, we had motorbikes with flags to signal the trajectory for the riders," he said at the finish area.

"We never spoke about neutralising those hairpins or that part of the course. I’m sorry that this misunderstanding came about. It doesn’t seem to me that race radio spoke about neutralisation. Maybe things could have been clearer but I'd say that a rider in a jersey should have looked for more information and not taken the risk of assuming descent was neutralised."

Unzue and Quintana deny doing anything wrong

Unzue defend his race strategy when approached by Cyclingnews in the car park.

"There was a lot of confusion," Unzue told Cyclingnews. "The race organisers and the UCI judges are in charge of the race. Quintana only did what other riders did. The Europcar riders took the descent pretty fast but the race wasn't neutralized. They didn’t say the race was neutralized, they said the motor bikes would signal the dangers by waving a red flag."

"I think it's important to point out that Nairo had a lead of a minute at the bottom of the Stelvio but gained four-minutes on Uran and the other riders. He gained most of the time on the climb, not on the descent."

Quintana was as good at avoiding the controversy as he was on the climb to Val Martello.

"I don’t understand why there is a polemic. I didn’t attack on the descent," he told Italian television after the stage.

"We were all together at the summit and I followed the Europcar riders who forced the pace. I never received an order from the organization or my team about a neutralization. And we made up the decisive difference on the climb, not on the descent."