Pogacar continues Giro dominance on day of rider protests

Team UAE’s Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar (C) rides in the pack during the 16th stage of the 107th Giro d’Italia cycling race, 206km between Livigno and Santa Cristina Val Gardena on May 21, 2024. AFP

Tadej Pogacar continued his dominance of the Giro d’Italia after pounding his way to victory in Tuesday’s shortened 16th stage, which started three hours late after riders rebelled at demands they race through snow.

Slovenian cycling superstar Pogacar burst to the fifth stage win — and second in a row — of his first ever Giro to take another big step towards a third triumph at a Grand Tour.

The two-time Tour de France winner could have held his position in the peloton and still led the three-week race handsomely but he surged past Giulio Pellizzari in the final kilometre before holding five fingers aloft as he crossed the line.

Pogacar gave Pellizzari his overall leader’s pink jersey as the pair embraced at the end of a tumultuous stage which was overshadowed by a revolt against race organisers RCS.

Riders were supposed to begin a 202-kilometre mountain stage between Livigno and Santa Cristina Val Gardena at 11:20am (0920 GMT) but plans were changed after hours of discussion, confusion and anger within the peloton and the race began at 2:30pm.

The stage was twice shortened and eventually began in Laas, 118km from the finish, due to the hazardous conditions after a rider revolt against organisers who pushed for a full day’s racing.

“The day started really on and off and we didn’t know what to do but once we started racing it was fine,” said Pogacar.

“At first since yesterday was just thinking to be safe today… in the end it was good for us and also I think good for the people, good for everybody. I think we should be happy given the circumstances.”

The day was certainly a good one for Pogacar as he leads Daniel Martinez by seven minutes and 18 seconds in the overall standings and also leads in the mountains classification after two straight summit victories.

However at one point it looked like the day’s stage might not even begin as dreadful weather peppered the original start line in Livigno.

Shortly before noon in Italy, organisers RCS had said that riders were supposed to start a parade around snow-covered Livigno before heading to Prati allo Stelvio, 121km from the finish, where the stage proper would get underway at around 2:00pm.

Weather chaos

But there was no-one at the start line despite RCS’s insistence on a start in Livigno, where local authorities had paid to have a Giro stage start in the ski resort.

“The riders are united on the issue,” Adam Hansen, president of the riders’ union, told broadcaster Eurosport, adding that they had voted unanimously to not participate in the stage as scheduled.

The start was then moved down to the valley and pushed back three hours so riders did not have to take the Giogo di Santa Maria pass, where the snow was falling heavily.

The peloton assembled in the shelter of a petrol station before setting off, swaddled in rain gear, for the shortened run.

Ben O’Connor, who is fourth in the overall standings, called the Giro “one of the worst organised races”.

“This would never happen in 99 percent of other situations,” Australian O’Connor told Eurosport.

“It’s just a shame that it is 2024 and you have dinosaurs who really don’t see the human side of things.”

French climber Valentin Paret-Peintre said that the peloton would only ride the full stage if RCS’s race chiefs “drive it in a convertible”.

Two-time world champion Julian Alaphilippe, who went it alone with 30km remaining only to give up the ghost, joked that he would spend the day “making snowmen”.

Difficult weather and sometimes bitter disputes about whether or not certain stages should take place are a regular feature of the Giro.

Organisers face further problems with their route before the Giro ends in Rome on Sunday.

There are mountain stages through the Alps and Dolomites scheduled for Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and more bad weather is forecast.

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