“We do the stage if they do it in a convertible”: amputated by the snow, the 16th stage of the Tour of Italy gave rise to a new standoff between riders threatening to strike and organizers who want to maintain the race cost what does it cost.

“Ridiculous”, a “circus”, “dinosaurs”: the runners did not mince their words towards the RCS organizers on Tuesday in Livigno, a Lombard ski resort where this mountain stage was to start and where there was great confusion among the snowflakes.

We had known for a few days that the weather was likely to be bad and the legendary Stelvio pass had already been removed from the route. Monday evening, as the threat intensified, RCS released a new protocol including three options depending on conditions.

The second, long favored, provided that runners could change clothes at the summit of Giogo di Santa Maria, the “replacement” of Stelvio perched at 2,498 meters above sea level, where the race would be neutralized for three minutes.

Several riders and teams immediately described this measure as “ridiculous” and “clownesque”.

Tension rose again on Tuesday when the CPA riders’ union published a letter, signed by “100% of the riders” according to its president Adam Hansen, to the race director Mauro Vegni who threatened a strike if the Giogo di Santa Maria was not removed.

But the race management remains inflexible, continuing to campaign for a start in Livigno, a city which pays dearly to host the Giro. She even offers runners to climb the first pass “in the dark”, a neutralized race. “If that’s it, we won’t start. We must show our unity for the future of cycling,” fumes Michael Valgren.

French climber Valentin Paret-Peintre also protests: “it’s ridiculous. Either they (the organizers) have never ridden a bike, or they haven’t thought about it. We do the stage if they do it in a convertible.”

“I can run if they want,” adds the pink jersey Tadej Pogacar, more diplomatic. But I hope there won’t be any accidents we’ll regret later. The safety of the runners must be respected. The descent is really dangerous. Let’s see what they decide.”

But, as the rain turns to snow, the discussions drag on and no one knows when and where the departure will take place, giving rise to grotesque scenes.

“We’re going to make snowmen,” laughs Julian Alaphilippe who is discovering the Giro, an event often subject to the vagaries of the weather due to its place in the calendar.

At 11:52 a.m., RCS finally sent a press release announcing that the riders were going to take the fictitious start at… 11:50 a.m. in Livigno, “just to make images” according to the French rider Benjamin Thomas, before going by bike to the new start in Prato hello Stelvio through a tunnel, rather than through the pass.

But at 11:50 a.m., no runners showed up. They are all in their cars, bikes on the roof rack, ready to go to the new start, but warm and not pedaling.

Finally, the runners won their case and the motorcade set off for the new start, now scheduled for 2:25 p.m., leaving in its wake an impression of a huge mess.

“The problem is that in the mountains the climate can change very quickly and you have to wait until the last moment to make a decision,” defends race director Mauro Vegni, believing he has found “a fair compromise that satisfies everyone.” the world”.

This is not really the opinion of Australian Ben O’Connor, fourth in the general classification: “I would like to see him in our place. It’s 2024 and we still have dinosaurs incapable of taking the human side into account. It’s one of the most poorly organized races in the world.”

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