One of the peloton's top lead-out men has questioned race organisers' increasing preference for climbing stages over bunch sprints which he says are popular with fans.
Australian Mark Renshaw, Mark Cavendish's chief lead man out at HTC-Highroad, said overall opportunities for pure sprinters had declined. "I don't know the angle in which race organisers are heading, there just seems to be a preference for climbing over pure sprinting... and I think people miss them," Renshaw told Cyclingnews.
He also questioned whether some stages that were bound to end in sprints needed to be so long.
"We don't need to race super-long stages to contest a sprint. I'm sure a 240km stage that's going to end in a sprint - you could do the same in 130kms."
While the comments from the fast man inevitably protect the interests of sprinters, their opportunities have declined. This year, in 38 days of racing at the Giro d'Italia, Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse, the number of sprints which didn't end with the complicating factor of an uphill finish tallied four. In 2010, at the same races, eight stages ended with a bunch gallop.
His comments come in the aftermath of the Giro, which was criticised for being too hard. It looks likely the current race director, Angelo Zomegnan will lose his job as RCS Sport looks to change the race's direction.
However, the trend for complicated finishes will continue at the Tour de France. In the first week - traditionally packed with sprint opportunities - three stages are ruled out because of uphill finishes. The stage two team time trial is another lost opportunity, meaning sprinters like Cavendish, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) and the Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) will likely contend just three in the first week.
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