Giro d'Italia cancels best downhill rider prize

The organisers of the Giro d'Italia have decided to cancel the best downhill rider classification. The award was introduced for this year's race.

The head of cycling at RCS Sport Mauro Vegni confirmed the news to Cyclingnews and La Gazzetta dello Sport in Alghero.

Vegni was angry and disappointed by the way the prize was criticised by some riders, and even UCI vice-president Tom Van Damme of Belgium, believing he has always considered rider safety a priority.

"We simply wanted to create an extra classification and create more interest for the fans. Sadly some people didn't fully understand the idea of the prize and other people used it to kick up a fuss. We've decided to eliminate the classification and the prizes. We'll still time the riders and use the data to inform the fans about the speed of the riders on the descents."

Some riders and fans questioned the wisdom of such a competition in a race that saw the death of a rider on a descent. Wouter Weylandt passed away after crashing heavily on the descent of the Passo del Bocco on stage 3 of the 2011 race. It also comes just days after the death of Chad Young, who died following a crash on a descent during the Tour of the Gila.

Belgian Federation president Van Damme called the idea 'unacceptable' and said that he had asked for it to be banned.

Trek-Segafredo's Jasper Stuyven, who will ride the Giro d'Italia this month, was particularly vocal about it. He wrote on Twitter, "Seriously?! If this true you should be ashamed, aren't there already enough crashes? Clearly you only care about sensation."

According to the Giro d'Italia's road book, a total of 10 segments, including the descent of the Stelvio, have been plotted and the fastest rider in each of the segments will be awarded 500 euros. Points will also be awarded and the rider with the most at the end of the race will be awarded 5,000 euros for first place, with 3,000 and 2,000 up for grabs for second and third respectively.

Those prizes will no longer be up for grabs. However, Vegni was saddened to see that people doubted his care for rider safety, pointing out he was one of the first to accept the UCI’s Extreme Weather Protocol and has cancelled stages and mountain finishes to appease riders' concerns about safety.

"I'm convinced that the prize is a good idea. We've got to look to the future and innovate races because the fans want to know more and more about the riders and their performances," Vegni said.

"We didn't want to push the riders to take extra risks, we simply wanted to add an extra prize to reward some of the riders who don’t win much or who are rarely in the spotlight."

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