Riders protest wintry conditions in Vuelta Castilla y Leon

Riders of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon staged a protest against starting the final 173.5km stage in Segovia today, afraid that snow on the higher elevation climbs would make the roads unsafe.

Among those leading the strike were Linus Gerdemann (Radioshack-Nissan), Stefan Schumacher (Christina Watches-Onfone) and Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), but, according to Marca.com, after the officials tried to call the race start, only an order from the Rabobank director Adri van Houwelingen for race leader Luis Leon Sanchez and his team to roll out broke the stalemate.

Van Houwelingen said the organisers made the correct choice to continue with the race. "The first ascent was the worst, but the snow was alongside the road and not on it," he said according to Rabosport.nl. "In addition, the descent faced south, which made it all passable.

"At -2 degrees on the top it was indeed very cold, but it was safe, and it was the same with the other climb."

Jamis-Sutter Home director Sebastian Alexandre agreed that the weather was extreme. "The weather was very bad, but definitely do-able. It was OK in the town, but the issue was up on the mountain," he told Cyclingnews. "There were times that my car showed -4 Celsius, it was almost impossible. But do-able, and the riders participated on an epic day."

Rabobank might have preferred the race to be cancelled, because Sanchez's teammates and then the race leader himself were unable to hold on as the peloton broke apart on the final climb. Sanchez was isolated and tried to give chase, but ended up losing almost five minutes by the end of the stage, which was won by Yeiko Gomez of Caja Rural, and Movistar's Javier Moreno took the overall race victory.

"The honest conclusion is that Luis Leon was just not good enough on the final climb, and the team was not good enough for the overall win."

The race itself had been under threat of extinction this year due to financial difficulties, and had the stage been cancelled, it may have been the final straw for the event. Earlier this year, the opening European stage race, Le Tour Mediterranean, was nearly left off the UCI calendar due to a monetary dispute over a stage which had been shortened due to weather in a previous year.

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