The Fog of War

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


The mountains were covered in cloud but the last stage of the Giro has been equally marked the “fog of war” following uncertainty over the Stelvio descent with claim and counter-claim about safety measures on the the descent.


As a recap the conditions were grim and the race organisers were checking the forecast all morning to see if the race could go ahead. Once underway the riders ascended the Gavia pass in rain and thick fog and for the Passo dello Stelvio rain had turned to snow higher up with fresh snow falling just as the race was coming up the pass.

What happened next is the source of confusion but let’s punt that out of the way for a moment. When a race has safety concerns there are different possible actions. The UCI rulebook has a variety of bits on safety but the most relevant part seems to be Chapter 2’s 2.2.029:

The same rule is also part of Article 3 of the Giro’s rulebook. The second bullet point is the one – was the stage temporarily neutralised?

Lost in translation
Let’s leave the rulebook for the real world and back to the Stelvio. The simple question is whether the stage was “temporarily neutralised” but the answer seems complicated. There’s audio from the race radio and in a broadcast to all team managers it says they’re inserting race motos with red flags in between the groups. Note radio-tour is a one way broadcast from the commissaire’s car to the convoy, instructions are not there to be discussed

  • At 30 seconds it says “to avoid attacks… on the descent”
  • At 50 seconds “pay attention to safety, do not pass the red flag”

There’s no mention of “temporary neutralisation” as a formal term but commentator Daniel Lloyd tweeted it was used in English/French. Indeed motos with red flags to prevent attacks on the descent sounds a lot like the equivalent.

As you can see there’s a red flag in front of Nairo Quintana. It’s now down to whether the Colombian passed the flag. If not, was the motorbike driver trying to slow things or were they merely acting as a safety outrider and not making any signals about speed or otherwise? As for the others, cyclingnews.com’s Stephen Farrand has a useful round-up of opinion from the team car to Mauro Vegni, race director.

By now we’re into specifics and risk getting bogged down in debate over words such as “neutralisation” – the irony – and it’s reminiscent of what the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz called “the fog of war”, the idea that the battlefield is full of complex scenarios and difficult human reactions. Von Clausewitz toiled for years on his book, so much so that it was published posthumously and perhaps there’s a lesson in this, as if trying to write up the chain of events in battle can be time-consuming.

Ceasefire?
Race neutralised, are you sure? As a racer there’s only one way to be sure and that’s to mark your rivals and ensure the word has reached everyone. Back to von Clausewitz and imagine a battlefield with a ceasefire, one side clambers out of the trench… and is mowed down by gunfire. Clearly upon a ceasefire the first movements into the open need to be cautious. The same on the Stelvio, even if you’ve heard something about temporary neutralisation then should you see two GC candidates in Nairo Quintana and Pierre Rolland riding away then patently there’s no cessation in hostilities, the race is on. Indeed Quintana said he went because he saw rider after another jumping away.
giro red flag bariAs we saw on the stage to Bari – when riders were falling like pins in a bowling alley – it took time for the bunch to agree what to do. Remember all these communications are very difficult. We’re talking multiple nationalities, different languages, competing teams and most of all, almost 200 men in lycra at speed in the wet. It’d be hard to reach a consensus in minutes if the bunch was seated in a warm conference hall so achieving it in the bunch is a big ask – and why a patron often imposes the law. Which is why it seems odd for some in the bunch to let others go down the road. Perhaps the firm solution for the bunch would have been to make it a binary scenario: either chase at speed just in case; or stop collectively saying “we were told the race had been stopped”. I’m not advising after the event what riders should have done, rather trying to illustrate the difficulty of the situation where only extreme outcomes probably could have worked: chase or stop and make a show of it, hoping to force the commissaires.

“Quintana was going to win anyway”
Nairo Quintana had two minutes after the descent but extended this on the final climb, so he was always going to win right? Maybe but that’s not the question we should be asking. To ask questions like that is to determine the “moral winner” when this is meant to be a safety issue. It’s not about second-guessing results or performances, nor running counter-factual scenarios or whether Quintana and Rolland were sporting in attacking – did they know or not? It’s about safety, not the identity of the rider up the road or the time margin.

We should note the race safely navigated the descent of the Stelvio through the clouds but the confusion was not who attacked where or when but the statements from the race directors transmitted via radio tour.

The RCS Result

That’s a statement from the race. As you can see the radio operator is getting a bit of the blame which seems unreasonable because if a message goes out, the teams can only act on it rather than play the parlour game telefono senza fili. What we learn is that the safety aspect was only related to a short section of the descent, the tricky hairpins which are so famous. This is a firm statement and suggests there’s no going back, a message repeated in La Gazzetta Dello Sport.

Conclusion
A misty mountain top and the fog of war. If the first 1,500m of the descent were to be ridden behind the red flag it seems the communication over the radio was ambiguous and the Italian audio isn’t specific with the terms nor the duration. Some teams took it as a message that the race was being neutralised when apparently the flags came out for safety reasons.

But did a rider from any group attempt to pass a red flag? If so that’s a potential breach of the rules but not specific and with it there’s uncertainty and confusion, claim and counter-claim. The debate will run and run because this is a murky topic with no hard rules to apply.

Marty McC May 28, 2014 at 2:10 am

I know he wasn’t alone today but Rolland seems to have a history of ignoring neutralised stages-didn’t he do something similar on stage 14 of the TdF in 2012, when Wiggins called a halt after Evans and others punctured after riding over tacks?

The Inner Ring May 28, 2014 at 2:17 am
Vanilla Thrilla (@Vanilla_Thrilla) May 28, 2014 at 3:45 am

I guess for once it wasn’t a Pierre Rolland Energy Wasting Attack™

Bundle May 28, 2014 at 6:07 pm

I didn’t like Rolland much so far (especially his polka-dot bike last year), but with this Giro he has won me. He wants to race all the time, and his form is growing according to his mental confidence. (“it’s all in the mind”). I’m sure it was him who made the bunch stretch and then break.

Diego May 29, 2014 at 3:27 pm

So what did you think of Quintana in the all pink?

Apart from the sheer gall, it was pretty garish

Bundle May 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm

My opinion on Quintana’s looks on today’s stage preview’s comments. As for Rolland, I’m all for gall… on the pedals (and in black shorts, if you please).

Patrick May 28, 2014 at 2:35 am

it seems one of the big issues is that many riders decided to stop at the top to put on clothing. if you choose to stop and leave the group you were with then it is your own problem if that group then breaks up. there is a difference between attacking and keeping on riding.
that said, it is completely understandable that freezing riders would take the opportunity to wrap up and really the organisation needs to take responsibility for clear communication – if it weren’t for the “to avoid attacks” statement it would all be clear.

perhaps, when combining this with the complete failure to run this stage last year, the big picture is that part of the calendar reschedule needs to look at whether May is an appropriate time to run a race which rightly should be taking in the high alps. might the vuelta be better suited to this time of year?

Brian May 28, 2014 at 3:09 am

Did anyone even crash? If not hard to argue it was too dangerous. Was it anything besides cold & wet? Miserable obviously. Great racing today.

Today was a downside to being 135 pounds with 3% body fat.

Brian May 28, 2014 at 3:13 am

Also, great to see a race changing long range attack work again (Andy ’11 TDF, ‘Berto ’12 Vuelta for a couple)

spicelab May 28, 2014 at 4:12 am

It’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that because no-one crashed the risks were overstated.

You’d expect the riders to be acutely on guard under these type of conditions and to modify their behaviour accordingly.

Brian May 28, 2014 at 4:37 am

Presumably you haven’t seen any races involving sprint train leadouts and the usual & typical road furniture then.

Diego Maradona May 29, 2014 at 1:24 am

No, it is misleading to say because no one crashed it wasn’t dangerous.

The riders all slowed down and descended safely because there were red flags and a message on the race radio saying it was neutralised.

Except Rolland, Quintana and his Movistar boys, but no one told them so that’s ok.

Right Knider May 29, 2014 at 8:10 am

not just Rolland and the movistar boys.

First there was Cataldo (sky) everyone could see on TV he was not going down neutralised, of course he was in front and had everything to lose.

after him there was a first chasing group consisting of 3 riders. Vuillermoz (ag2r), pantano & chalapud (colombia)

and then behind them was the infamous second chasing group consisting of quintana (mov), izaguirre (mov), rolland (europcar), siccard (europcar), Hesjedal (garmin) and rabottini (neri).

so at least 10 riders from 6 teams did not stop at the top and raced down. and according to his own report uran also did not stop.

Diego May 29, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Thanks for that, so we have several cheats then.

Charles May 28, 2014 at 1:44 pm

3%? really? I thought 5% was about as low as you could go

Nick May 28, 2014 at 9:34 pm

People not crashing when they’ve been told not to attack and to follow a red flag doesn’t really tell you whether it would have been dangerous *without* those safety instructions.

Bit of a failure by the race organisers, it seems. Particularly blaming their race radio operators.

LM May 28, 2014 at 3:22 am

By the end of his career, I think we will have learned that Quintana is a sly fox.

Sam P. May 28, 2014 at 8:41 am

Nor would I say this is at all a bad thing in a bike racer!

Andrunken May 28, 2014 at 3:21 pm

By sly fox you mean lying cheat? That’s what he us after all.

Dr Fuentes May 29, 2014 at 1:25 am

In the same way that Claudio Chiappucci was a sly fox?

Oh that old rascal…

Doped to the eyeballs sure, but what a sly fox ey?

Goonie May 28, 2014 at 3:32 am

I don’t think it’s clear that Quintana was going to make substantial time on the last climb without the earlier attack.

Hesjedal held his wheel most of the way up, and I don’t think too many rate him as the second-best climber in the Giro.

Brian May 28, 2014 at 3:38 am

Well without the TTT crash he would be 2nd on GC….so maybe. Consistency sometimes pays off.

Bundle May 28, 2014 at 8:24 am

He was the second strongest yesterday for sure. Another thing is why the pink jersey group allowed itselg to be dragged by domestiques like Dupont and Rogers till so late in the climb. If leaders had taken things in their own hands, they could have done better. But maybe they were not strong enough.

Fatso Rosa May 28, 2014 at 3:48 am

It’s an interesting side note to the race, but it’s gonna be forgotten in about 12 hours time. Even the “complaints” from Uran and other DSs sounds half assed because they all know no one could follow Quintana up the mountains.

Garuda32 May 28, 2014 at 7:08 am

Except a lanky Canadian as pointed above.

Augie March May 28, 2014 at 12:16 pm
Jerome May 28, 2014 at 3:53 am

I think long range attacks work, its just that the quality of riders needed to pull it off rarely take the gamble. If every leader is down to one domestique the break will go just as fast as the ‘bunch’

Larrick May 28, 2014 at 4:04 am

One thing to note Inrng. You can clearly see a moto with a red flag behind Dupont. At this point it show the distance as 5.1k’s down the descent. Dupont was about 30 secs behind Cataldo so less than a k.

Tovarishch May 28, 2014 at 6:50 am

Unfortunately I missed the descent – did Cataldo have the “benefit” of a red flag?

Larrick May 28, 2014 at 7:41 am

Cataldo had an official car between 10 to 50 metres ahead. The speed it was going compared to the motos is debatable.

gabriele May 28, 2014 at 11:37 am

Cataldo said he passed a moto with red flag.

Bundle May 28, 2014 at 8:10 am

One point missing in this analysis: was there any reason for special safety measures? That descent was just wet, like a thousand wet descents that they’ve all ridden before.

Larry T. May 28, 2014 at 8:31 am

Dead right! I’m sure there were issues like this long before, but this reminds me of the “neutered” stage in LeTour awhile back when the Schlecks fell off. If someone’s going to be allowed to call time-outs and such and so-called “safety” cars and motos get introduced, what’s next? Purpose-built racing circuits? Racing on the public roads, where riders need to always be ready for the unexpected is a key part of the sporting value to me, unlike racing on a velodrome. This stage will be debated for years and become part of the always-interesting history of La Corsa Rosa. W Il Giro!

Tovarishch May 28, 2014 at 10:05 am

We’ll have safety cars with everyone weaving to keep their tyres warm.

The Inner Ring May 28, 2014 at 10:48 am

It was particularly cloudy at the top and in the fog the fear was the riders would not see the bends clearly – hence the motos with their tail light and red flags were inserted between each group.

Bundle May 28, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Any precedent of fog stopping a race?

Andrunken May 28, 2014 at 3:24 pm

When is it up to the racers to overrule a Marshall /Commissaire?

If I’m playing football, I can’t just decide the referee is wrong and keep playing.

Quintana cheated, his race is null and void.

Bundle May 28, 2014 at 4:57 pm

I can’t say that much. Not my point anyway. My point is that, if there had been no special measures taken, there wouldn’t have been any of these misunderstandings in the first place. And beyond that, if there hadn’t been riders and DS whining about safety and cold for the previous days, the organisers wouldn’t have become all nervous and panicky when they saw the snow atop the Stelvio, and made the wrong decisions.

Nick May 28, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Isn’t the point that in most sports, the in-game decisions made by referees *can’t* be wrong? You might be able to challenge them afterwards, but during the event the referees’ decisions are the laws the participants have to follow.

Bundle May 28, 2014 at 10:46 pm

And can’t one fan discuss decisions made by referees? Besides, I’m surprised at the number of rules-related opinions, in comparison to what really matters: the different attitudes of riders (compare Rolland and Kelderman, for instance), and how thrilling the stage was. Cheat or no cheat, offensive riders won, and that’s excellent news. And sadly, this is, in the context of the pitiful way most races are raced, more important than legal debates.

Nick May 30, 2014 at 11:33 am

Absolutely agree that fans can complain about the decisions, just making the point that they can’t be “wrong” from the perspective of somebody within the race.

Having said that, I agree that somebody breaking the rules has livened up the race. Seems an appropriate tribute for Pantani!

Michael H May 31, 2014 at 3:45 am

What a ridiculous comment.

Bazil Brush May 28, 2014 at 8:32 am

The implication is that the lead riders (Quintana included) passed a red flag, does anyone know for certain this happened? Surely the Moto driver in Gruber’s picture (which shows the group dutifully following, not racing on) would report to the Race Director.

The flags where only up on the first section, so it’s perfectly possible these guys gained fair advantage by being well positioned on the descent behind the lead ‘safety car’ for when the flag was dropped??

The other teams with GC ambitions should have had Quintana marked, it’s they that took their eyes off the ball, that’s why they are so pissed.

Hat to Movistar IMHO

max May 28, 2014 at 8:56 am

And, was the red flag in front of Quintana moving at the same speed as the red flag in front of Uran? I’m sure it wasn’t – so how can we expect this to be truly fair.

And that’s the thing, bike racing is not always fair.

Stay at the front and you might have more chance of missing the unfair stuff – like being caught behind crashes or neutralisations.

The Inner Ring May 28, 2014 at 10:53 am

This morning ex-pro Marco Velo, now a moto rider and man with a flag has said Quintana and others passed him but he was powerless to do anything.

The next question is what happens if you pass a red flag. If Vegni says it’s just being waved to warn of hazards it’s ok but other times it’s not. The problem here is that nobody had control of the situation, different people were left to different interpretations. The debate rumbles on.

LM May 28, 2014 at 12:43 pm

After reading around, the debate probably should rumble on for a bit. But, in the photo above of the start, no one would think of passing the moto with the flag. There must be a definitive rule about the red flag? Maybe?

Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 7:27 pm

I think the problem is, there is no clear meaning for a red flag on a moto in the middle of a bike race stage. It isn’t like auto racing with its clearly understood back, red, yellow, blue flags.

Also, a half-frozen rider slithering down a 30 mph descent in driving sleet, glasses covered with snow, attention focused on the upcoming hairpin bend and the rider in front, might well not notice a small red flag on the moto ahead. Watch the broadcast of the initial descent and there are times when the TV camera image is obscured by snow piling up on the lens. Armchair viewers studying a still photo see things that can be missed by participants for whom the scene is flashing by in seconds.

LM May 28, 2014 at 7:53 pm

I hear what your saying and understand your reasoning. I haven’t looked at the rule book but, every race moto is equipped with a red flag. There must be a flag protocol rule. There also must be a reporting protocol for when a flag is ignored. It would be laughable if there isn’t.

Additionally, if I were on the moto, in charge of slowing a group of riders for safety, they would notice me. And these roads were very narrow. I ride year-round often in the northern hemisphere. It’s not like this was a blizzard, and the camera always makes it look worse than it is. Just like for actresses ;-)

UCI May 29, 2014 at 4:28 am

Confused by the red kite indicating 3km to go I agree, but there is a clear meaning for a red flag, “neutralised race”.

LM May 29, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I was sure of this as well. But actually, the red flag only gets a mention in the rules as “road block” for press vehicles, to protect a downed rider and to be flown during a “neutralised start”.

So, while the Race Director or whomever called for a neutralisation at the top of the Stelvio, there was no established protocol, from either the UCI or the Giro organization itself to carry out the neutralisation. And, there is no rule against a rider passing a moto flying a red flag during the race.

Wacky, eh?

Tovarishch May 30, 2014 at 1:07 pm

The orgainsers were also using red flags to indicate a road hazard. Was every one of these neutralised?

Nick May 28, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Apparently Movistar’s director has been given a CHF200 fine for failing to follow directions. Perhaps it’s been dealt with?

Bundle May 29, 2014 at 10:08 am

Now I read that the chief UCI commissaire it was up to UCI commissaires to neutralise and not to the organization. And that the commissaires never decided to neutralise anything. What a mess! :D

Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 9:07 am

Pozzovivo, who was in Uran’s group, said “What neutralization? I went down as fast as I could.”

Chris May 28, 2014 at 2:58 pm

To be fair, gravity is not his ally when going downhill

George May 29, 2014 at 3:27 am

Why does everybody say riders who weigh less go slower downhill? Wasn’t the whole point of Galileo’s (supposed) experiment where he dropped balls from the leaning tower of Pisa supposed to be that weight doesn’t affect speed of falling bodies if you disregard air resistance? Actually, since smaller riders are more aerodynamic, shouldn’t they go down faster? Just wondering, because you hear this a lot, and I never got that?

max May 29, 2014 at 3:57 am

If you want to hypothesize on who descends quicker, be it a light rider or a heavy one, then ignore air resistance at you peril.

http://www.bikeforums.net/road-cycling/491848-why-do-heavier-cyclists-descend-faster-2.html

George May 29, 2014 at 4:05 am

Thanks for that. I seriously had no idea what the reasoning behind that was.

Lee Woodhead May 28, 2014 at 9:11 am

Well done to Movistar & Quintana, he just rode the conditions and the course better.

Diego Maradona May 29, 2014 at 1:22 am

You mean he got away with it and the race officials won’t act on his cheating?

I’m surprised he didn’t say it was “the hand of God” that helped him ‘win’?

Right Knider May 28, 2014 at 9:48 am

It seems to me that during the whole descent nobody had a clear picture about the whereabouts of most of the riders, if there were groups and who was in them. only at the bottom it became clear that there were gaps and three dangerous guys were up front. a huge disappointment for any DS who tries controlling the race as good as possible.
Such a confusion is seldom in modern cycling, and aside from all the other discussion had something refreshing.
But maybe cycling should find some safer ways to create such confusing situations.

gabriele May 28, 2014 at 11:35 am

The DSs have televisions on board, and from the first 6-7kms on it was pretty clear what was going on. Stelvio’s descent is about 25kms long, with the last 13kms very adequate to chase, since there are just four hairpins, and long straight stretches where you need to push hard on the pedals to raise speed (5-6%).

LM May 28, 2014 at 12:58 pm

This is a great point and, not to sidetrack the conversation, without race radios this is exactly what road racing would look like.

The argument for safety is a red herring as there are at least three ways to address safety more effectively than it is is now.

Jon L May 28, 2014 at 9:52 am

It’s pretty clear that it is a bulls-up by RCS.

For perspective inside the peloton read Nico Roche’s diary for the Irish Independent http://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/cycling/nicolas-roches-giro-ditalia-diary-i-was-freezing-and-had-to-put-the-third-jacket-on-which-is-a-record-for-me-30310114.html

The lead group riders believing the descent was neutralised took time to put on extra layers, and Quintana, Rolland and Hesjedal attacked.

RCS aren’t making things any better with any of their press releases.

Tovarishch May 28, 2014 at 10:12 am

We all remounted and with the descent neutralised, we expected to catch up with the front of the group pretty easily.

But that isn’t the idea of neutralisation. All gaps should be maintained.

LM May 28, 2014 at 1:14 pm

They all assumed that Quintana’s group was moving at a snail’s pace.

While the most rudimentary argument is that most of the gains were on the final climb, it cannot be stressed enough about the importance of the psychological advantage that was gained by the gap at the bottom of the Stelvio descent.

Nick May 28, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Isn’t the point that they assumed that the gap at the bottom would be the same as the gap at the top, so *afterwards* they would be able to catch up easily?

gabriele May 28, 2014 at 11:40 am

Urán hadn’t stopped to put anything on, he did it (just like Astana riders) about half a kilometer before the top.

Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Quintana stopped to put on a clear rain cape, I think.

denominator May 28, 2014 at 10:50 am

I think that strong statements from some DSs are (at least partially) because they try to hide their own mistake. Surely the organizers caused a communication confusion by using the words “red flag” but not saying something like “no neutralization, just safety measure”. But if a main pretendent is nowhere to be seen, alarm should be declared, not just “let us continue as before and see at the bottom”.

gabriele May 28, 2014 at 11:28 am

+1

The DSs hoped that Quintana would end up burned with the “silly attacker” Rolland. When they realized the usual sheep-herd style wasn’t working, they started whining. Many riders’ declarations were way softer (Pozzovivo, to start with, but even Aru and to some extent Urán).

LM May 28, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Everyone has seen a video of the inside of the DS’s auto, it’s stressful and often frantic. Add to that vague reports from race officials, the fog, six languages, etc. There are a number of sports where it is common for the course or situation to be modified during a competition and even when this is an accepted, if not regular, occurrence it is very difficult to keep your head and add this new scenario to your tactical calculations which are already taxing your brain to its limit.

Richard EASTHAM May 28, 2014 at 11:30 am

“It’d be hard to reach a consensus in minutes if the bunch was seated in a warm conference hall so achieving it in the bunch is a big ask”

Brilliantly put, but I’d wager warm conference halls only drag the debate out.

Francisco May 28, 2014 at 2:18 pm

+1. Many an agreement has been reached only with the parties completely exhausted or under moderate duress. e.g. J.P.Morgan locking up the other heads of the american banks in his library during the 1907 crisis and not letting anyone out until they had collectively pledged enough money to maintain market liquidity. Bailouts were somewhat different in those times…

George May 28, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Ahh, the good old days.

gabriele May 28, 2014 at 11:53 am

I suspect that many DSs just wanted their domestics to come back, and play the stage as usual. Rolland and whoever were so crazy to go with him just… “wasting energy” :-)

In fact, these same domestics didn’t “maintain their position” during the descent, since they were quite far back from the very reduced “bunch”, and took advantage of the descent to come back in. But the DSs are trying to play with the supposed confusion between “neutralisation” (all together, domestics included) and “maintain your position”, which would have implied that neither attacking NOR coming back to the bunch should have been allowed.

Movistar won the stage while riding good tempo on the Stelvio; and Quintana, understanding that any attack (Rolland’s) had to be followed. Even if he lose nearly every gregario (he had more then one atop of Stelvio…) to do that.

Before casting doubts about the possibility Quintana would have had to win anyway, on the basis of Hesjedal nearly staying with him, we should consider that Ryder isn’t going so bad in this Giro (on the contrary), but, even more important, he didn’t work in the plain – while Rolland did – and on the climb Quintana was working alone 90% or more of the time. At pro riders’ speed, slipstream matters when climbing, too; even more so on an irregular climb with easy stretches.

George May 28, 2014 at 1:53 pm

How does the giro say there was no neutralization when it said in the radio message not to attack? Doesn’t that mean don’t pass the motos? Which means that part of the descent was neutralized. Not the whole thing, so Uran and co. had no excuse for the bottom part of the climb, but the organizers are not helping their case by saying they didn’t mention neutralization. They didn’t say the word “neutralization,” but what they did say amounted to the same thing.

Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I was up on the Stelvio at 0900 yesterday. The conditions were as miserable (cold, snow, sleet, and rain) then as when the race when through. All I and everyone else who came up yesterday wanted to do was get down as fast as possible. I don’t blame any of the riders for trying to get off the Stelvio as fast as possible… the valley temps were a lot warmer.

As for the pragmatic aspects of neutralizing a stage. How could the organizers ever maintain position, let alone time differences accurately? I’m not sure it is possible. Heck some riders could use it as a chance to refuel or take a nature break and argue that should should still be let back in at their position/time. As for descending, some riders are more comfortable descending rapidly in bad conditions than others. Shouldn’t they be allowed to use that to their advantage? Successfully dealing with various conditions is well accepted in the spring classics. Why not here? Also it could be argued that slowing down on a descent actually makes it more dangerous. Having to stay behind the motorcycle reduces your visibility (making it hard to choose the safest line) and sprays more dirt and water up into your path/face…. not exactly something that makes descending safer.

After hitting the Stelvio yesterday, I saw the Giro start up the Stevlio in Bormio. There was no question Movistar had it together. They all had proper clothing, were eating, and the dominant team in the Magnia Rosa group. Also did see several riders getting a “water bottle” tow from team cars. Of course, that happened way behind the leaders.

BC May 28, 2014 at 2:27 pm

The rules and what was and was not said are probably irrelevant to the final outcome.

How the hell do you neutralize a race going 30Ks downhill, with the field spread all over the place. I notice the usual siren voices are once again being heard above the background noise. Conditions were poor, but many bike races have been run in worse conditions. If there was seriously a safety issue, then the stage should have been rerouted onto the alternative route. It was not, and we witnessed a heroic and epic stage, with a well deserved winner. No major incidence occurred to support the ‘ban everything because it might be dangerous’ brigade. It is a real tough bike race, not tiddlywinks !

George May 28, 2014 at 4:11 pm

+1. If it’s that dangerous, use the alternative route. If it’s alright, let the riders race.

Gavia Gaz May 29, 2014 at 5:30 am

Seems everyone has forgotten the facts of the EPIC (thanks to Rapha and Specialized for granting use of that word) stage 14 in 1988. Andy Hampsten riding through the snow is all we see.

Hampsten wasn’t first to summit the Passo di Gavia, nor was he first over the line. The thing we all remember was the brutal conditions and him taking the maglia rosa that day. Most don’t recall Ciccoli losing the pink jersey, or Vandevelde freaking out after reaching the summit first.

Sadly, all I’ll be remembering is Quintana taking the jersey under very questionable circumstances.

Gavia Gaz May 29, 2014 at 5:34 am

Same way they did at MSR last year. Get the time gaps at the summit, hold the riders at the bottom, releasing them in those gaps.

Surprised they didn’t have the contingency plans after the snow last year, but that’s what so great about the Giro and some aspects of Italy. Shambolic to some, but not to those who hate the bland risk-free generic Starbucks nature of sport elsewhere.

theMUSETTE May 28, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Nice to see a balanced discussion without the “he would have won anyway etc” as you pointed out.

Aside how it was managed by RCS (would this have happened under Michele Aquerone…probably not…?) , I wonder if – wait for the old chestnut – riders and teams weren’t so used to communicating within the team via radio, but were actually used to seeing flags and boards for info and knowing what they meant, we might have a different reaction to said red flags…

That is an aside to the Race Radio discussion.

#discuss

cd May 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Motos slowing down a wet descent with red flags doesn’t sound all too safe. Look at poor Taylor Phinney. Many riders would rather descend at their speed of choice to be safe, for some that’s faster with less braking and for others it would be slower. No one should have to follow a moto that’s randomly slowing up to keep the bunch together. The smart move would have to been to neutralize at the bottom and the organizers and the competing DS’s had 25km of descending to figure that out, but no, they wait until after to complain.

Dodgy Dave May 28, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Valverde would be proud of his Movistar team.

Why am I not surprised at the loose morals of these Movistar riders? Mainolo Sainz must be still there.

They’ve always had ‘different interpretations’ of the truth, like the fact not one Spanish rider has ever admitted to doping or shown any remorse.

It is very clear Quintana and his Movistar tea mates ride past the red flag, cheating their way to the win. Why bother asking them later what they think? You don’t ask the thief who steals your wallet.

Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 3:38 pm

“Why am I not surprised at the loose morals of these Movistar riders? Mainolo Sainz must be still there.”

Is it because you’re anti-Spanish? Just a hunch

Dr Fuentes May 29, 2014 at 1:29 am
gabriele May 30, 2014 at 1:17 am

Sad & blind nationalism. And I’m not speaking of Spain nor Kazakhistan.

Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Could just ask his team mate to get him a gel when its hot and he’s bonking…

Plenty of non Spanish riders – English speaking – who didn’t admit to doping, nor show remorse, until the law had them against a wall!

Do I like Valverde? No. Related to his nationality? No way!

Your national stereotypes are insulting.

Tovarishch May 28, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Whereas your accusations of cheating are one thousand times worse.

Dr Fuentes May 29, 2014 at 1:28 am

Miguel Indurain.

gabriele May 30, 2014 at 1:18 am

Eddy Merckx.

gabriele May 28, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Impressive display of ignorance from Dodgy Dave.
Manolo Saiz directed the historic “enemy” team of the directors now working as Movistar…
Manzano (Spanish rider) was one of the first riders to step up and denounce team doping.

Dr Fuentes May 29, 2014 at 1:40 am

Impressive selective use of facts from yourself there too gabriele. I’m talking about the loose interpretation of honesty and sporting honour.

Jesus Manzano was in the headlights and gave up because (like many others) he was caught red handed. He’s no David Millar.

Spanish lab, Spanish doctor, frequented by riders from around the world but also many Spanish football players (who go on to win the Euro and World Cup shortly after). 2013 against WADA’s request, Spanish judge orders the destruction of 211 blood bags from Dr Fuentes’ lab, then gives Fuentes a slap on the wrist (suspended sentence).

Miguel Indurain. Amongst the dirtiest era, he’s a national hero and has never had anyone question him in his country. Guess he was clean then.

Dunno, maybe I am just stabbing inthe dark and these are these just random not just all part of a culture from some parts of cycling?

Anonymous May 29, 2014 at 3:39 am

Quintana is Colombian.

Dr Fuentes May 29, 2014 at 5:24 am

Movistar is Spanish, as is the DS.

Point?

Right Knider May 29, 2014 at 8:27 am

it was not just quintana and spanish teams that were in the groups ahead of the magia rosa

these were the riders:

leader/ cataldo (sky)

first chasing group/ vuillermoz(ag2r), pantano(colombia), chalapud(colombia)

second chasing group/ quintana(mov), izaguirre(mov), rabottini(neri), rolland(europcar), siccard(europcar)

so 3 french guys, 3 from italian based teams(if you count colombia to these), two from anglo-saxon teams and finally the two movistar guys. so 6 teams in total and pretty international

First there was Cataldo (sky) everyone could see on TV he was not going down neutralised, of course he was in front and had everything to lose.

after him there was a first chasing group consisting of 3 riders. Vuillermoz (ag2r), pantano & chalapud (colombia)

and then behind them was the infamous second chasing group consisting of quintana (mov), izaguirre (mov), rolland (europcar), siccard (europcar), Hesjedal (garmin) and rabottini (neri).

so at least 10 riders from 6 teams did not stop at the top and raced down. and according to his own report uran also did not stop.

Right Knider May 29, 2014 at 8:29 am

forgot to mention Hesjedal from the second chasing group, and sorry for the double-text

Chris May 29, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Actually, Izaguirre told Biciciclismo that he was dropped on the Stelvio ascent and then caught back up with Quintana much later in the descent. In the process, he passed the other GC contenders on his way down the mountain. Surely this should have raised proverbial red flags amongst the GC guys? I mean, they could’ve followed Izaguirre down and caught up with Quintana easily but they didn’t, for whatever reason (supposed neutralization, freezing temperatures, etc.). This also shows the Quintana and company were probably not going down the mountain that much faster than the GC group.

Of note in that interview is also that Izaguirre says that Quintana was so cold on Gavia that he was entertaining the thought of getting off his bike and that Izaguirre had to encourage him to continue. These guys are human after all

Anonymous May 29, 2014 at 9:43 am

Of course. That proves non-anglos are corrupt cheats and Anglos are pure as the driven snow.

I’ve lived many years in both camps and have no trust issues with the Spanish culture. Brilliant, warm, open and generous people who value friends and family over status and prestige…in my experience.

But then maybe behaviour of people is a reflection of ones behaviour to them and I prefer not to judge based on a flag, language or newspaper article, but more on being present and on first hand dealings.

I await another internet link or 20 year old headline story on which to base your denigration of a people and a culture. Meanwhile I think I’ll have a good coffee in the lovely sunshine in a bustling friendly plaza full of decent people and families…I’ll be careful in case they cheat me and lie to me, thanks for your warnings!

Ten un buen día.

gabriele May 30, 2014 at 1:11 am

“He’s no David Millar”… no, they’re not the same person, I agree on that, but are you possibly hinting that David Millar spoke without being caught?!? Really? Speaking of selective use of facts.
At least Manzano told all the truth.
Doping in pro sport is endemic, whatever the country. I can’t believe it’s still so hard to see.

Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Imagine if Quintana were Valverde

Anyways, like when Froome bonked I’ve lost interest now.

Rich W. May 28, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Seems to me that if there is any doubt whatsoever about whether the stage has been neutralized, you keep racing until you know that all your rivals are also treating the race as neutralized. To let Quintana roll off the front with some vague understanding/possibility that the race might be neutralized is Uran’s mistake and he needs to live with it.

Right Knider May 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm

yeah the guy (uran uran) is just too relaxed. but probably they all really just thought it wouldnt be a problem to catch up with anyone getting away on the descent. at least this scheme seemed to work in 99% of the cases lately

Jon L May 28, 2014 at 5:30 pm

I think they were trying to implement the equivalent of the F1 safety car, however it’s not as easy in a bike race (different groups of riders, not a loop/track), it does seem unfeasible.

LM May 28, 2014 at 5:46 pm

I think the assumed protocol would be a red flagged moto per group maintaining the time differences established at the top of the Stelvio.

shermo May 29, 2014 at 2:17 am

Take time gaps at the top, everyone rides to the bottom together. Set off groups using the time gaps taken at the top. I’ve had this happen in amateur races for roadworks/trains/dodgy descents. It doesn’t seem complicated. You don’t really need to track who’s in each group. The riders all know, and you could check after the race and DSQ anyone who moves up a group. There’s no ‘oops I didn’t know’ excuse here.

LM May 28, 2014 at 5:44 pm

It seems, if you weed through the all the static, that Quintana, Roland and a group passed a moto that was flying a red flag. It seems that the race officials were not all on the same page with regard to addressing the conditions caused by the weather; their statement were conflicting and evolving. It seems that passing the red flag is a direct violation of the rules.

Quintana et al should be disqualified or the day’s race should be disqualified. The latter choice allows Quintana et al to continue.

Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 6:27 pm

From the AIGCP statement:
“Following this morning’s team managers meeting in Sarnonico, at the start of the 17th stage of the Giro d’Italia, a delegation of the AIGCP met with RCS and the UCI commissaires. On behalf of ALL teams, the AIGCP has specifically demanded a neutralisation of the time differences at the bottom of the descent of the Stelvio of yesterdays stage. The UCI has declined this demand and stated that the results would remain unchanged. Putting procedures above fair-sportsmanship is simply unacceptable and very disappointing. In respect to the fans and cycling as a whole, teams decided to start the stage”

Full here:
https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=409072302565324&id=379059338899954

Tovarishch May 28, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Why don’t they propose a Pools panel to determine the result? Agreeing to this demand would set a dangerous precedent (and I bet the decision to demand neutralization was based on a majority vote rather than being unanimous)

BC May 28, 2014 at 7:02 pm

That statement does not seem like a reasonable political compromise. It is/was a bike race where the first man across the finishing line is supposedly the winner. Good on the UCI if they are taking the only sensible line given the circumstances, and refusing to gerrymander the result for vested interests. Lets hope this is the final word – anything different could lead to endless arguments about the result of races.

I might just add for balance, that I have little time for Movistar nor several of their riders or directors.

Marty J May 29, 2014 at 6:04 am

I find it hard to believe that no other GC contenders saw Quintana go off the front. If they did, and they just sat there believing the race was neutralized, why didn’t they complain then? Or, why didn’t they follow? If he was already off the front, then how can they contest his advantage at the bottom? My recollection was that the gap continued to increase up the final climb. There has been a trend in the last few years towards riders complaining about every breach of unwritten etiquette. Several years ago Zomegnan said that the Giro was not for ballerinas. He got fired, and the ballerinas are gaining strength. Sour grapes.

RocksRootsRoad May 29, 2014 at 11:00 am

Of course, if Chief Commissaire Cancellara was there – none of this would have happended…

Paul (not the famous designer) Smith May 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Has anyone identified whether the Rolland/Quintana group passed any red flags?
If no, good racing to them.

LM May 29, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I believe two people have gone on record saying that they did see him urge the moto to drive more quickly through the corners and then eventually pass the moto. I have not read that anyone has tracked down the commissar on the moto though for his version.

Diego May 29, 2014 at 4:44 pm

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BoqOU9jIYAEDBIq.jpg

Jared Gruber has a pic of Quintana’s group passing the moto with the red flag clearly visible.

Vitus May 29, 2014 at 6:42 pm

In this picture the group is 10m behind the moto!
How on earth can someone looking on this picture say “gpic of Quintana’s roup passing the moto”, is this biased fantasy?
I can see a unicorn in the snow also. Wait, there’s another, think he has a red horn!

Joe Saroni May 29, 2014 at 11:45 pm

I just listened to the clip from inner ring tumblr site, the race organizers very clearly states that the race will be neutralized from the Stelvio down to the valley, or where its deemed safe to race again. For those of you that can understand Italian, It leaves little room for debate. Very sad after an epic day, to have a debate over what did and did not happen. Again, it’s always something. I know the Italians want to be the TdF, but episodes like this show just how far they need to progress.

gabriele May 30, 2014 at 1:05 am

If you’re speaking of the clip linked above from “cycling.it”, I’d say the episode also suggests you may need to improve your Italian, if you’re assuming that they’re clearly stating something like: “the race will be neutralized from the Stelvio down to the valley” ;-)
(again, if we’re speaking of the same clip)
Though, I agree about the distance between Giro and TdF. TdF wouldn’t have allowed any similar debate, with direct (or – what’s worse and more probable – indirect) sanctions on whoever protested.
Money rules.
That said, s**t happens on both sides of the Alps.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: