Giro d’Italia chaos: Ben O’Connor slams organizers as ‘dinosaurs’ amid Stage 16 showdown

Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) criticized Giro d’Italia organizers as “dinosaurs” for initially refusing to give in to riders’ demands to significantly alter stage 16 due to heavy rain and high-altitude snow.

The Giro was engulfed in chaos and confusion on Tuesday as riders raised serious concerns about the dangerous conditions of the race, which included a climb to almost 2,500 meters in miserable weather before a steep descent.

O’Connor led the protest, whose candid comments highlighted the tension between runners and race organizers.

“I think it’s probably one of the worst organized races, I’m just being honest,” O’Connor bluntly told Eurosport.

“This would never happen in 99% of other situations. It’s a bit embarrassing that in 2024 there are still dinosaurs that don’t really see the human side of things.”

The peloton, led by cycling group Cyclistes Professionnels Associes (CPA), wanted the stage to skip the Umbrail Pass, the highest point of this year’s race, and the following descent.

Initially, the RCS stood firm on that proposal, leading to a confrontation as riders refused to start the race in Livingo, where conditions were already bad.

“I’d like to keep getting on stage,” O’Connor continued.

“I don’t want to travel more than 2,500 m, it’s already five degrees and it’s raining heavily. At 2,500 m it’s already snowing.

“So I think it’s clear that you should start a little lower and go to the end. You still have a race, you still have a final.”

Addressing Giro race director Mauro Vegni, O’Connor added: “I’d like to see him in our position, cycling out and starting this stage and seeing what his response is after those couple of hours.”

“I wish you could experience it because then you could get a feel for what it’s really like, rather than driving up the hill and saying ‘this is great for people to see.'”

It was later confirmed that the race would start on the other side of the Umbrail Pass, just beyond Prato dello Stelvio, in Lasa/Laas. The reduced 118 km route still included the finish at Passo Pinei Cat.1 and Cat. 2 Santa Cristina Pass.

Paolo Bellino, general director of the RCS racing organization, explained his version of the situation.

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‘Conditions are not safe’: Giro organizer explains changes to stage 16

“Yesterday we all agreed on a protocol to implement today. Option 1 was to start the race normally. Option 2 was if the weather was what we expected: rain up to the Stelvio and a temperature of 4 or 5 degrees: we could give them runners the opportunity to stop and change before continuing.

“The last option was that if the weather was very bad, we could change. Today we decided on option 2 at 10 in the morning. Then the weather got worse, so we are moving things. But we have an agreement to start from here, then drive through the tunnel and start at Prato dello Stelvio.”

Meanwhile, Vegni said he had to consider multiple parties in any decision to reduce a stage, including the departure city of Livingo.

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The Giro race director explains how the “compromise” was reached after the delay of stage 16

“It is snowing and we cannot go over the Stelvio pass or Umbrail, so we will start after the descent in Prato dello Stelvio,” he said.

“The problem is that the weather in the mountains can change: it can snow and rain, and until the last moment you don’t always know.

“We have already decided with the extreme weather protocol three options, and this is the third option. I think what we have made is a fair compromise: what we want, what the riders want, what Livigno wants.”

“We have obligations to them and we also have to keep them happy.”

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