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Tour de France stage 16: Riders stop after cold downhill neutral start

CANALE ITALY MAY 10 Kilian Frankiny of Switzerland and Team Qhubeka Assos during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 3 a 190km stage from Biella to Canale Rain jacket Detail view girodiitalia Giro on May 10 2021 in Canale Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Riders will be able to stop to remove layers at the start of stage 16 of the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)

Racing was delayed on stage 16 of the Tour de France after the riders requested a short stop for clothing changes at the end of the cold downhill neutral start.

The first stage of the final week features an unusual start, with the Tour village and the start line positioned at Pas de la Case in Andorra, up at an altitude of above 2000 metres. 

However, the 'real' start - or kilometre-zero - is found way down the mountain, at 1134 metres. The riders will have to complete a 19.1-kilometre neutralised roll-out behind the race director's car, all of it downhill. 

With cool temperatures across the Pyrenees on Tuesday, coupled with the high-altitude descending start, many riders are expected to be wrapped up warm for the neutral roll-out. 

On Tuesday morning, the CPA - a riders' union - announced that it had agreed with the race organiser, ASO, a brief stop at the end of the neutral zone for riders to remove layers and hand them to their team cars. 

"Due to the specific nature of today’s stage – with low temperatures and the neutralized start coming after 19km of downhill, Pascal Chanteur negotiated a short 5-minute stop before Km 0 to allow riders to change," read a statement from the CPA

"This followed our discussion with the riders. Thank you for working with the riders, ASO. Safety first always."

Rider safety has been a key issue in recent months and already has caused frictions at this Tour de France. The opening week saw a spate of crashes, with numerous riders complaining that the stage 3 run-in, on twisty descending roads, was unsafe when sprint teams and GC teams were expected to be jostling for position. 

Later in the race, the CPA and the ASO took action to extend the 3km-to-go safety zone - where GC times are neutralised in the event of a crash or mechanical - to 4.5km to go. 

Stage 16 of the Tour de France continues to descend once it is waved underway, before tackling the Col de Port, Col de la Core, Col de Portet-d'Aspet, and the shorter Côte d'Aspret-Sarrat nearer the finish.

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.