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Giro d'Italia stage 19 shortened to 124km after rider protest

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ASTI ITALY OCTOBER 23 Start Wilco Kelderman of The Netherlands and Team Sunweb Pink Leader Jersey Morbegno Village during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 19 a 258km stage from Morbegno to Asti girodiitalia Giro on October 23 2020 in Asti Italy Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images

Race leader Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) at the start in Morbegno (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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ASTI ITALY OCTOBER 23 Start Wilco Kelderman of The Netherlands and Team Sunweb Pink Leader Jersey Adam Hansen of Australia and Team Lotto Soudal Nathan Haas of Australia and Team Cofidis Solutions Credits Ignatas Konovalovas of Lithuania and Team Groupama FDJ Miles Scotson of Australia and Team Groupama FDJ Protected from the heavy rain and in talks about the possible cancellation of the stage due to rain Morbegno Village during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 19 a 258km stage from Morbegno to Asti girodiitalia Giro on October 23 2020 in Asti Italy Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images

Riders including Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) discuss the situation at the start (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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ASTI ITALY OCTOBER 23 Wilco Kelderman of The Netherlands and Team Sunweb Pink Leader Jersey Ruben Guerreiro of Portugal and Team EF Pro Cycling Blue Mountain Jersey during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 19 a 258km stage from Morbegno to Asti girodiitalia Giro on October 23 2020 in Asti Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

The peloton roll out in Morbegno in dismal weather conditions (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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The Giro d'Italia rolled out of Morbegno but soon stopped after a rider protest

The riders rolled along for eight kilometres at the start (Image credit: Getty Images)
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ASTI ITALY OCTOBER 23 Filippo Ganna of Italy and Team INEOS Grenadiers Davide Ballerini of Italy and Team Deceuninck QuickStep Josef Cerny of Czech Republic and CCC Team Race neutralised due to heavy rain and team riders protest during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 19 a 258km stage from Morbegno to Asti girodiitalia Giro on October 23 2020 in Asti Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Riders alongside the race director's car (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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ASTI ITALY OCTOBER 23 Jonas Gregaard of Denmark and Astana Pro Team Simone Bevilacqua of Italy and Team Vini Zabu KTM James Whelan of Australia and Team EF Pro Cycling Race neutralised due to heavy rain and team riders protest during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 19 a 258km stage from Morbegno to Asti girodiitalia Giro on October 23 2020 in Asti Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Jonas Gregaard (Astana) in the peloton as they stop on stage 19 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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Riders had to wait in the rain for their team buses

Nathan Haas (Cofidis) among riders waiting in the rain for their team buses (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Wilco Kelderman at his Sunweb team car

Kelderman stops to get into his team car (Image credit: Getty Images)
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ASTI ITALY OCTOBER 23 Wilco Kelderman of The Netherlands and Team Sunweb Pink Leader Jersey Race neutralised due to heavy rain and team riders protest Car Detail view during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 19 a 258km stage from Morbegno to Asti girodiitalia Giro on October 23 2020 in Asti Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Kelderman in his Sunweb team car after the stage was stopped (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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ASTI ITALY OCTOBER 23 Start Davide Ballerini of Italy and Team Deceuninck QuickStep Race neutralised due to heavy rain and team riders protest Bus Rain Detail view during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 19 a 258km stage from Morbegno to Asti girodiitalia Giro on October 23 2020 in Asti Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-QuickStep) boards the team bus (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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ASTI ITALY OCTOBER 23 Team EF Pro Cycling Race neutralised due to heavy rain and team riders protest Connondale Bikes Bus Team EF Pro Cycling special Rapha x Palace Skateboards Landscape during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 19 a 258km stage from Morbegno to Asti girodiitalia Giro on October 23 2020 in Asti Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

EF Pro Cycling's bikes outside the team bus (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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"The team buses were escorted from Morbegno to the new start near Milan

EF Pro Cycling's bus in the convoy to the new start (Image credit: Getty Images)
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ASTI ITALY OCTOBER 23 Cars Race neutralised due to heavy rain and team riders protest during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 19 a 258km stage from Morbegno to Asti girodiitalia Giro on October 23 2020 in Asti Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Astana's bus ahead of Deceuninck-QuickStep en route to the new start (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

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. 

Follow the situation in real time with our live stage 19 coverage

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.