Colombia’s Nairo Quintana battled through treacherous conditions to win a controversial 16th stage of the Giro d’Italia from Ponte di Legno to Val Martello on Tuesday and take the overall leader’s pink jersey from compatriot Rigoberto Uran.
Finishing eight seconds ahead of Canadian runner-up Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp), Quintana (Movistar) established an advantage of one minute and 41 seconds over second-placed Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), whom he had trailed by two minutes and 40 seconds at the start of the day.
Although Quintana was celebrating at the end, there was plenty of unhappiness at the stage, which was cancelled last year due to adverse weather conditions, being allowed to go ahead at all given the snow and rain those taking part had to ride through.
And to add to the sense of chaos, a message on the race’s official Twitter feed emerged mid-stage saying the descent of the Passo dello Stelvio was to be neutralised, only for another one to appear later saying that was in fact not the case.
An apology was posted by the Giro d’Italia organisers, which said: “Wrong communication: no neutralisation for the descent from the Passo dello Stelvio. Sorry for the wrong information. #giro”
Oleg Tinkov, owner of Team Tinkoff-Saxo, reacted by writing on Twitter: “What a poor #giro organisation! They said neutralised descent and Quintana attacked. Is there any fair play in cycling? #Mess #Scandal.”
On the issue of the weather, Uran’s team boss Pat Lafevere made it clear on Twitter that he was not happy about the situation, calling out International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson with a message that said: “Is this modern Cycling @BrianCooksonUCI #UCI ?”
Cadel Evans’ BMC Racing team-mate Brent Bookwalter posted a message on Tuesday morning before the race started saying: “Wise man says, and also lives... Just because you “can” doesn’t mean you “should”. #giro @giroditalia #logic #safety.”
Also, 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome wrote on Tuesday morning: “I feel sorry for the guys racing the Giro today. Be safe out there, too many serious injuries already!”
Australian Evans, 10th on this stage, was third in the general classification, three minutes and 21 seconds off Quintana, while fourth overall was Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar), who came third on Tuesday. Uran finished the stage in ninth place.
There was also reason for cheer for Team Sky, with Dario Cataldo attacking solo on the ascent of the Stelvio to seal the Cima Coppi prize.
Following the race, organisers issued a statement.
It said: “In consideration of audio recordings of instructions relayed to Directeurs sportifs during today’s stage, the Directors of the Giro d’Italia would like to clarify that Race Radio provided an inaccurate interpretation of the indications stipulated by the Directors.
“As previously stated, the intention was to guarantee rider safety during the first section of the descent (the first 6 hairpins, approximately 1500 m) of the Passo dello Stelvio, where visibility was restricted due to low cloud and fog.
“At no point did Race Radio or the Directors of the Giro make reference to the possible neutralisation of any part of the descent.”