Stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia, the longest stage of the race set to run 258km from Morbegno to Asti, was shortened to 124km after a rider protest at the start on Friday morning.
The new start was taken from Abbiategrasso, some 25km east of Milan, which would have been passed 134km into the original stage.
On Thursday evening, RCS Sport had announced an additional 5km would be added to the 253km-long stage due to a bridge collapse in Candia Lomellina, prompting riders to question the logic of such a long stage.
Discussions took place on Thursday night, with riders continuing to talk through the situation with CPA rider association representative Cristian Salvato, race director Mauro Vegni and UCI commissaires before the start in Morbegno.
It is understood that the riders were unhappy about the length of the stage so late in the third week of the Giro after a final week of long stages and early starts, as well long transfers before and after stages. Pouring rain and 11c at the start as the final straw for many riders, who sheltered in the VIP tent at the start area.
After talks and some kind of an agreement to cut the length of the stage, the peloton rolled out from Morbegno 10 minutes later than scheduled, eventually stopping after 8km of the route on an empty main road to wait for team buses ahead of the transfer to the new start.
The move comes after riders had complained about the length of transfers earlier in the race, with Groupama-FDJ's Jacopo Guarnieri taking to Twitter after stage 16 to San Daniele del Friuli to say: "So, in summary, 1 hour 30 by bus this morning, 6 hour 30 by bike and ends with another 2 hour 30 by bus. At least you have an idea why we don't make fire and flames from km 0."
At the start of the stage in Abbiategrasso, Vegni railed against the riders, calling the situation "a disaster" and even threatening legal action.
"I have to say I'm very upset about the way this has happened," he said.
"I think there are going to be some words with lawyers here because I don't think it has been a respectful way to the race, to the people who want to watch, and I think there has been no real respect shown to everyone involved on the rest of the stage.
"We think that there will be consequences because of the behaviour of the riders today. I don't think there really are excuses for them not to do it today. Whoever brought these proposals needs to show proof it was discussed last night otherwise I will get lawyers involved."
The concerns over stage 19 are far from the first rider welfare complaint at the 2020 Giro.
Earlier in the race, riders complained about the state of the race's anti-COVID-19 'bubble', with Jumbo-Visma's Jos Van Emden noting that neutral service, police and the general public were mixing with multiple teams in race hotels.
The UCI later announced extra rounds of COVID-19 testing and moves to strengthen the 'bubble', in line with recommendations suggested by EF Pro Cycling, who wrote to race organisers to request an early race stoppage due to "a clearly compromised bubble".
Stage 4 was marred by a crash at the finish after a RAI television helicopter blew barriers into the road, taking out Vini Zabù-Brado-KTM riders Etienne Van Empel and Luca Wackermann, with the latter forced out of the race as a result.
Thanks to the jury and the #Giro organiser for listening to #CPA request. The #health is the priority, especially in this #COVID period. Reducing today's stage will not diminish the show, but will allow the immune defenses of the #riders not to be put at greater risk.📸Monguzzi pic.twitter.com/1ZKmVq8CdROctober 23, 2020
The race will restart from Abbiategrasso (MI), keeping active all the intermediate sprints from there on.La corsa ripartirà da Abbiategrasso (MI), mantenendo attivi tutti i traguardi volanti da lì in poi.#Giro pic.twitter.com/0F3JYp3UZROctober 23, 2020
Just to clear things up. This was presented yesterday with today's stage being super long in the rain with our immune system suppressed while in a pandemic. It was not accepted.This morning when all the riders were under the tent no one went to the start line and riders 1/2 https://t.co/GiG8KCZbKnOctober 23, 2020
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