ALGHERO (Italy) • Giro d'Italia has scrapped its controversial "best downhiller" prizes after fears it could lead to fatal accidents during the three-week race.
Race organiser RCS faced criticism from riders and officials after announcing cash prizes for the best times on some downhill sections of several stages during the May 5-28 cycling race.
On the eve of the 100th edition of the event which starts in Sardinia, RCS said yesterday: "Race organisers have decided to eliminate all such classifications and prize money as per the race regulations, leaving the timekeeping of the descents purely as statistical data for the fans."
The last fatality on the Giro, which begins with a 206km opening stage from Alghero to Olbia, was in 2011 when Belgian Wouter Weylandt crashed on the descent of the Passo del Bocco.
The dangers facing cyclists came into sharp focus last month with the death of Italian Michele Scarponi, 37. He was reportedly hit by a van during training. And only days ago American Chad Young, 21, died from head injuries following a crash during a descent of the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico.
International Cycling Union (UCI) senior official Tom van Damme said the idea of prizes for speeding downhill was "unacceptable" and called for it to be binned.
Riders participating in Italy were also against the initiative, Trek rider Jasper Stuyven writing on Twitter: "Seriously? If this (is) true you should be ashamed, aren't there already enough crashes? Clearly you only care about sensation."
Team Sky's Wout Poels decried the idea as "life-threatening" and noted on Twitter that he hoped it was a joke. Fellow Dutchman Koen de Kort of Trek-Segafredo echoed those remarks on social media, calling the idea "ridiculous".
Fans were in agreement with the cyclists. They offered a series of jokes about it on social media after it was announced.
Confirming its U-turn, RCS said: "Comments have been made suggesting that this initiative could be potentially misunderstood and generate behaviour not in line with the principles of safety. The race organisers have taken these comments on board and changed an initiative that could be misinterpreted."