Giro d’Italia’s ‘kamikaze’ prize causes controversy

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giro best descender prize

Controversy has surrounded the decision by Giro d’Italia race organiser RCS Sport to introduce a competition for the best descender in this year’s race.

The ‘Pirelli Premio Miglior Discesista’ consists of a cash prize of €500 awarded to the quickest rider on 10 timed downhill segments of the 100th edition of the Giro.

In addition, prize money will also be awarded at the end of the race to the quickest riders down all 10 segments overall. The overall winner will receive €5,000 from a total prize pot of €15,000 for the competition, sponsored by tyre manufacturer Pirelli.

Some riders have condemned the prize, branding it as a “life threatening idea”, particularly in the light of the recent death of 21-year-old American rider Chad Young, who crashed on a descent in the Tour of the Gila.

Young suffered a severe head injury and died in hospital five days after the incident.

Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt died after crashing on a descent during the 2011 Giro d’Italia. The race number 108 has been permanently retired from the race in his memory.

Many see the descending prize as an enticement for riders to take unnecessary risks during the race, endangering themselves and possibly others.

Trek-Segafredo rider Jasper Stuyven said on Twitter: “@giroditalia seriously?! If this true you should be ashamed… aren’t there already enough crashes? Clearly you only care about sensation.”

Team Sky’s Wout Poels said: “Life threatening idea to give a prize to the best descender in Giro? I hope this is a joke? What about safety?”

Jos Van Emden of LottoNL-Jumbo added: “Please don’t do this @giroditalia. A 3 week race through Italy is enough spettacolo!”

Due to the fierce criticism the Giro organisation on Wednesday decided to reverse their decision and cancel the prize.

Tribute to the 2011 Champion

ciao scarponi
Michele Scarponi after his 2011 Giro win

The Giro d’Italia’s Mortirolo climb is to be dedicated to former Astana rider Michele Scarponi, who died while out training last month.

Scarponi was killed following a collision with a van at a crossroads near his home in Filottrano.

He had been due to lead Astana’s campaign in place of the injured Fabio Aru, with the team announcing on Sunday they would go one rider short to honour the Italian’s memory.
And further tributes are planned during this year’s 100th edition of the Giro.

“The Giro d’Italia can’t forget a great champion, a big friend and a great man who was set to take part in the Corsa Rosa for the 12th time this year,” a release on the race’s official website said.

“Therefore, a tribute will be paid to him with one of the iconic climbs of this year’s race dedicated to him: the Mortirolo.

“On stage 16 from Rovetta to Bormio, Tuesday 23 May, the King of the Mountains points awarded to the rider who passes the Mortirolo in first position will be doubled compared to what was originally planned in the race regulations. He will also be honoured on stage on the final podium of the Giro in Milan.

“Moreover, in Sardinia, Scarponi’s Astana team will be first to be introduced to the crowd on Thursday 4 May at 6.30pm in Alghero, when a special moment will be dedicated to his memory.

“The following day, at the start of stage 1, the pink caravan will observe a minute’s silence before the flag off. The Astana team will be on the front line of the bunch for the very first part of the course. The name of Michele Scarponi will thus be associated with the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia.”

Scarponi was awarded the Giro’s general classification title in 2011 after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title for doping offences.

The 2017 Giro d’Italia starts in Sardinia on Friday, May 5, and concludes three weeks later in Milan on Sunday, May 28.