The Giro’s Best Descender Prize

Monday, 1 May 2017

As tweeted earlier today the Giro d’Italia rulebook includes a novelty for 2017: the best descender prize. Some on social media thought it was a joke but it’s black and white in the race rulebook. Here’s a quick explainer on the prize and some thoughts on it too.

Update: the competition and prize has been dropped by RCS. The descents will still be timed and the data made public.

The first thing to note is that this is not a big prize. The Giro has many prizes up for grabs every day and if you just watch on TV then chances are you think the four jersey wearers and the stage winner go to the podium each day. In fact there are many more like the Breakaway Prize, the Intermediate Sprint prize, the Fighting Spirit prize plus three separate, distinct team prizes Super Team, the Winning Team and the Fairplay Team. Added to this comes the Best Descender Prize so the first thing to note is that this is an ancillary competition among others rather than the Big New Race.

It’s sponsored by Pirelli, an Italian a Chinese tyre company. Here’s the rule copy-pasted:

A special classification has been set out to assess the best downhill rider of the 100th Giro d’Italia. Times will be recorded along the following downhill stretches:

  • Stage 8: Monte Sant’Angelo
  • Stage 9: Chieti
  • Stage 11: Monte Fumaiolo
  • Stage 12: Colla di Cassaglia
  • Stage 15: Selvino
  • Stage 16: Passo dello Stelvio
  • Stage 17: Passo del Tonale
  • Stage 18: Passo Pordoi
  • Stage 19: Sella Chianzutan
  • Stage 20: Monte Grappa

The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th fastest riders covering the timed downhill stretches above will be awarded with 8, 5, 3, 2 and 1 points, respectively. For each timed downhill stretch, the fastest rider will be awarded with a prize of €500.

At the end of the Giro, the general classification will be issued, based on the sum of the points achieved by each rider, and the following prizes will be awarded: 1st €5,000; 2nd €3,000; 3rd €2,000

Reading the rule closely it appears these are timed segments rather than logging the first rider to reach the foot of a descent. This means riders won’t necessarily know who they are competing against during a particular segment, it could be the riders at the front of the race trying to win the stage or challenge for the overall descend the fastest but it is actually more likely to be someone in the gruppetto, the group of dropped riders collaborating to stay in the race. Since they’re not climbers they’re often forced to descend fast to make up for lost time. In fact it is conceivable that a rider sits up before a descent and then leap frog the team cars and race convoy on the way down, profiting from the vehicular slipstreams to record the fastest time. Possibly unintentionally… possibly deliberately.

But what if riders race for this prize? As mentioned it’s an ancillary competition but just as Napoleon remarked that “a soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of coloured ribbon“, then a pro cyclist, especially one on a team that needs publicity and podium photo calls, will take risks to get this. Of course riders are already racing, to win the Giro is to master descents at the kind of speed that would have most of us applying the brown chamois cream. Descending is an essential skill and it can be argued last year’s Giro was decided down the Colle dell’Agnello.

But this prize is different because it creates a race within the race. Perhaps you’ve been out on a group ride when suddenly someone surges for no apparent reason, only to later explain they were chasing a virtual Strava segment. Now imagine this on a group ride of close to 200 riders and during a descent? As you can see this is risky to put it mildly, even among able pros. There might be other competitions during the race like riders going for an intermediate sprint but these contests are far more obvious. With these timed segments riders won’t be able to measure themselves against others in the moment.

It’s also a risky venture for the sponsor Pirelli, as soon as a rider crashes out of the Giro on a selected descent there will be questions whether they were racing for this prize even if they weren’t.

Wacky Races
There’s also the other incentives, would a rider – and it’s not forbidden – jump on a specially-weighted bike for a descent? We’re quickly on a slippery slope here metaphorically and potentially literally. Would a rider in contention for the overall descender prize in Milan forgo a flapping rain jacket in order to hurtle down the Stelvio only to freeze? There’s skill and there’s stupidity and this prize may not be discerning enough.

Rider protest
If this blog found the new competition sitting in the rulebook it’s curious that it hasn’t been announced officially, like, for example the switch from the red jersey to the ciclamino purple version for 2017 that was announced in a press release and relayed across the usual cycling news sites. It’s possible that rider protest and their CPA union leans on Giro owners RCS to back down, there are already numerous expressions of incredulity and frustration from the peloton on social media and the US arm of the rider union has already spoken out about it. RCS will find it awkward to tell Pirelli who are sponsoring the Giro for the first time (or at least returning as a sponsor after an absence) that the new competition is going to be scratched.

History
It’s not the first time this has been done. Loyal readers will know that Paris-Nice had a meilleur descendeur prize in 1968 but it was abandoned: too dangerous or the ski maker who sponsored it changed their mind isn’t known. The Giro has had its moments too, for example the downhill time trial on the Poggio in 1987.

Summary
It’s a new prize for 2017 but just that, a small side competition. Still judging by the interest on social media it’s more attention-grabbing than the annual Fairplay or Breakaway prizes and for obvious reasons of risk and speed.

Descending is an essential skill and seeing this measured and rewarded is interesting in an abstract manner, in theory we really will be able to settle the question of who is the fastest rider downhill. However in practice this prize is fraught with risk.

RonDe May 1, 2017 at 9:24 pm

I bet Steven Kruijswijk doesn’t win it. Or Zakarin. 🙂

David May 2, 2017 at 8:51 am

Crashbike’s reputation as a poor descender is really undeserved – he’s actually pretty good. His Giro disaster came when he wasn’t yet even on the descent proper, and was the result of a moment’s inattention while rifling through his gels, rather than any lack of descending skill. After the crash he actually made up a fair chunk of time on the descent, before pain and isolation kicked in and he faded.

The less said about Zakarin’s descending, though, the better.

hahostolze May 2, 2017 at 10:00 am

Still hurts reading about this. He was so bloody good last year.

Hammarling May 1, 2017 at 9:31 pm

Honestly, i’m not bothered by the safety aspect. It’s an entirely voluntary competition for the riders, they can oh so easily opt to not take risk on the descent to fight for the prize. Someone is willing to go for it, good on them for taking the risk and showing what they can do (although the prize of best descenders will always be the specific Downhill Racers, those people are genuinely insane).

I’ll be interested to see what happens in a 2015(?) Stelvio situation if a race is neutralised on a descent, but it’s not neutralised, but it is, but it isn’t etc. Just wondering if RCS has some contingency planning for extreme weather or crashes or other issues causeing a neutralisation or blockage of a descent. You’d assume so, but with pro-cycling these days i’m never quite sure…

Anyway, cool gimmick. Certainly generated media interest and engagement, let’s see how well that holds up through the race or if it just gets forgotten like the other ancialliary competitions as the battle for pink takes over.

Larry T May 1, 2017 at 9:59 pm

+1 Just happened to notice this today on the Giro website while searching for something else. I guess Pirelli’s as Italian as Pinarello, no? As someone who finds a fast, flowing descent to be a just reward for the effort to get up the damn climb in the first place and one who can usually hold his own on the way down with pretty much anyone even at the advanced age of 60+ I think this a fine idea. I dismiss all the namby-pamby “fraught with risk” claims the same way I dismissed the whining of guys like Andy Schleck back-in-the-day.
Plenty of races have been won by skillful and daring descents, perhaps the most recent and obvious being Nibali’s Lombardia win in 2015, but the Giro history is full of tales of exploits when the road tilted downwards. Pirelli used to make (or at least have their name on ’em) bicycle tires – maybe they’ll get back in the game?

Chris_SK May 1, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Hammarling – i think you summed it up nicely in the third paragraph. Cool gimmick, and a publicity generator. The organizers can do well to remember accidents like Weylandts and not bother encouraging the riders to risk loss of control on the descents – they’re dangerous enough as is.

The Inner Ring May 1, 2017 at 10:36 pm

It’s voluntary until [pick a team] manager decides they’re having a bad Giro and it’d be good if their rider could have a go at this because the team needs the publicity. For all the “buzz” this creates someone has to risk things.

Hammarling May 2, 2017 at 12:13 am

What about the team manager that says “Hey, win Roubaix for me” or “Win this sprint stage”. Cobbles increase the odds of a crash. Mass sprints increase the odds for a crash. I don’t get why one thing, descent competition, is such a stupid idea when other dangerous aspects are considered fine. Riders have been massively injured on cobbles and sprints, but eh who cares….

Adrian Miles May 2, 2017 at 5:30 am

Because you’re not comparing apples with apples. In the case of Paris-Roubaix the better comparison would be a prize awarded to whoever rode the first 100 metres of Arenberg fastest, or one sector fastest. This would encourage a pile of contenders to sprint into the sector to get some fame and glory, in turn risking everybody else.

Alternatively run the timed descent on time trial stages, or as a time trial, or a single event by itself. Yes cobbles are dangerous, but you are rewarded by getting to the end and crossing the line, not by doing one small part of it faster than everyone else which does have the effect of making it dangerous for everybody else.

ebbe May 2, 2017 at 12:31 pm

That’s exactly what I was thinking: I actually like the idea of awarding good descending for once. There’s special awards for many other aspects of the game, so why not for descending? The argument “but fast descending is already awarded by time gained for the GC” is of course a false argument, because the same can be said for climbing, sprinting, rushes, and “golden kilometers”, etc.

But let’s just make it (descending) a separate time trial stage, with individual starts 2 minutes apart and added safety measures (such as: padded downhill kit and full face helmet mandatory, blow up barriers in the dangerous corners, etc). And – dare I say it? – disc brake bikes! I’d watch the hell out of that. Then give the winner of that time trial a big sponsored bonus.

That way there would really be an award for the best descender: A money bonus plus a time bonus for their GC. It would also eliminate the obstacle of groups of slower riders holding up the good descenders, which makes it more fair. And the riders that don’t want to take risks can coast down without being afraid the guy next to or behind them might go full retard. But if they do take it easy, then they’ll lose some time in their GC, as with any other time trial.

Only thing to sort out would be the starting order: You’d ideally want the best descenders first from a safety perspective and from a performance perspective, but last from a suspense perspective.

Nick May 2, 2017 at 2:45 pm

remove the pedals too, so it’s a pure descending ability competition?

presumably this prize will be won by the person who leads the grupetto down each day.

Ecky Thump May 2, 2017 at 8:42 pm

One of the problems debating the ‘danger’ that the sport may pose is that there are no statistics kept at all (to the best of my knowledge).
I say sport when, in fact, it is also an occupation, whose hazards should be subject to mitigation the same as the rest of us would expect.
Some more objective data would be a starting point, however.

Larry T May 2, 2017 at 6:29 pm

It appears the conventional wisdom is the sport’s getting too dangerous to encourage any sort of racing, unless it’s uphill and straight enough that the likes of Wittle Cwissy Fwoome can stare at his power-meter rather than look where he’s going.
Anything else is too “fraught with risk” it seems. Perhaps this “Chicken Little” mentality should be taken to it’s ultimate extreme – just line up the riders on Corso Sempione, weigh each one and then have ’em pedal away on a stationary trainer for an hour? Most watts per kilogram wins. Andy Schleck might come out of retirement!
But wait a second….do I hear Mt. Etna rumbling? How soon will the hysteria start about racing up the side of an active volcano in a few days? 🙂

Uli May 2, 2017 at 6:36 pm

THANK YOU Larry!! I was attacked left and right yesterday for pretty much saying what you did.

MJJ May 3, 2017 at 1:31 am

This is tiresome and ignorant. Froome won last year due to the crosswind and descending as much as climbing, Larry. Give it a rest. Or did you only watch the Giro.

Larry T May 3, 2017 at 2:57 am

MJJ- this site has been remarkably free of name calling vs other sites with comments so I’ll be kind here – I was NOT referring to any particular edition of any particular race, so your reference to last year’s TdF, etc. is YOUR claim, not mine.
Sorry, but I don’t find this discussion or most of the posts ignorant or tiresome and FYI I did watch a fair amount of TdF 2016 though I do admit I find it painful to watch the guy the Italian Eurosport commenter calls “Il Frullatore” in action.

Eskerrik Asko May 3, 2017 at 5:08 am

It doesn’t exactly raise the (already excellent) level of the comments here when someone who first writes something like “Wittle Cwissy Fwoome can stare at his power-meter rather than look where he’s going” and then complains of name calling when someone points out that it (like the multitude of his oft and usuallly apropos of nothing repeated disparaging remarks about Froome) was tiresome and ignorant.
Pardon me – I woke up at four in the morning and the birds are making an awful racket outside my window – but I rate you quite high as a commenter *when you have the presence of mind to post about a subject other than Chris Froome and road safety in Italy*.

Shawn May 2, 2017 at 2:13 am

Yes, a racer voluntarily takes on the risk of competing for this prize but also increases the risks for all those nearby. To promote that sort of unnecessary risk imposition is irresponsible of RCS.

ebbe May 2, 2017 at 12:14 pm

But would somebody who is dedicated to winning this overall (over 10 segments) prize not make sure he’s alone on those stretches? So he’ll either make sure he’s at the front before the sections start, or wayyyyyy at the back. If not, there’s no point in competing for this prize anyway, because you’ll never win it.

Arne Vangheluwe May 1, 2017 at 10:01 pm

Only one comment: wouter weylandt

The respect for the family is far in this one …

The Inner Ring May 1, 2017 at 10:38 pm

I didn’t mention this in the piece above because it went without saying but you’re right to cite it. A problem is that anyone who crashes, especially if they get injured, on one of these selected descents is going to be asked if they were racing for the prize.

DJS May 2, 2017 at 8:09 am

+1

Ferdi May 2, 2017 at 2:49 pm

To that comment, I’d oppose: “Extreme Weather Protocol”, “Cyclo-Computers”, “Deliberate Collective Time-Cut Missing”, “Mountain Trains”, “Sprint Trains”, “Sprint-Specialized Teams”, “Time-Trial Distance Limit”, “Stage Distance Limit”, “Free Acess to Food Throughout the Race”, “Tri-Bars”, “3km Rule”, and much more.

CA May 2, 2017 at 9:38 pm

Agreed – this is most important reason to cancel this prize. Cycling is already dangerous enough with the peloton and others descending in orderly fashion with some semblance of control over the grupetto.

As soon as one rider sitting at back of grupetto starts passing riders all over the place just to make up places in this idiotic competition, the risk of a major crash will increase many times over. You rarely hear of a major group crash on descents, let’s hope and pray that this competition doesn’t inspire large downhill crashes at 60+ kph.

STS May 2, 2017 at 11:39 pm

I’m sorry but you seem to have never seen the gruppetto descend a mountain pass. How do you think those guys are able to reach speeds in excess of 100 kph on sections where a single rider no matter how brave and good a descender he is barely reaches 80 kph? They do of course overtake each other constantly in between turns in order to benefit the most from the slipstream such a big group offers.

SirDaveBrailsford May 1, 2017 at 10:13 pm

Already seem Poels and Dombrowski slating this one. There are probably others. Riders enter a cycle race not Death Race 2000.

The Inner Ring May 1, 2017 at 10:38 pm

There are many more. Perhaps some in the peloton like the idea too but I haven’t seen it among current riders.

Will May 1, 2017 at 10:39 pm

Savoldelli may come out of retirement?

I think pro cyclists are already some of the bravest athletes in the world. I hate the idea. Or better put, the idea terrifies me.

CA May 2, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Exactly, it’s a ridiculous idea. To think that the risk these riders take under normal circumstances, now dangle 5,000 euros in front of the best descender and you’ll see major risks being taken. Don’t forget, 5,000 euros is a lot to many of these riders – they’re really not that well paid.

Eskerrik Asko May 3, 2017 at 4:42 am

€5000 is a lot to many people, including inrng readers! I mean I don’t go around spending five grand every day or buying a new bike and a nice wheelsete very year…
But I think you forgot a small matter: the nominal sum is one thing and the sum that the rider actually sees appear (at some future date) in his bank is but a fraction of it.
Even assuming that there are riders on a minimum wage contract who could conceivably go all out for the miglior discesista and who would have free hands so to speak to do so – i.e. who wouldn’t be otherwise engaged in their normal duties according to the role given to them by their DS – I believe it is a little condescending to see the wad of cash as their primary objective.

Uli May 3, 2017 at 11:58 am

Money gets shared in team among riders and staff

Eskerrik Asko May 3, 2017 at 1:03 pm

A subject that was covered in detail in a blog entry not so long time ago and one that should have been familiar to regular readers,

MikeF May 1, 2017 at 11:23 pm

Just a few days after hearing 21 year old Chad Young has succumbed to his injuries from crashing on a descent in the Tour of the Gila, this seems a particularly ill-advised competition.

STS May 2, 2017 at 12:37 am

I think it’s actually good that the Giro gives it a try. And a tire company is a fitting sponsor although it would be even better if it was a bicycle tire company. We’ll find out if it’s a valuable competition or if we’ll have a random winner who benefits from descending in the grupetto which often logs the fastest times in descents. And it’s certainly less dangerous than engaging in the sprint battle for the point jersey.
Unfortunately we will probably not be able to witness the fastest descenders going for it during the TV coverage as there is usually no camera moto descending with the grupetto. Which is a good thing because that would be really dangerous. But maybe we can watch some on-board camera footage of those descents after the stages. Those videos would probably be very popular.

Matt W May 2, 2017 at 1:08 am

At best its a ‘half baked’ idea, at worse its harebrained.

Matt W May 2, 2017 at 1:17 am

For a moment inrng I thought I had my months mixed up? No, I definitely did see the race go by at Gruson 3 weeks ago, so we’ve already had Apr the 1st!

micah durham May 2, 2017 at 3:55 am

they might as well just hand Sagan the prize now

JaimeRoberto May 2, 2017 at 7:01 am

He’s so good he’s going to win it from California.

Involuntary brown chamois cream May 2, 2017 at 4:47 am

Thanks, Inrng. I now have the perfect way to describe some of my descending experiences.

Steve Potts May 2, 2017 at 5:15 am

Descending at speed is dangerous. Descending on roads that are wet with rain or mountain runoff and/or ice is more dangerous. Descending on roads where the surface is broken and rutted adds to the hazards, especially if it’s foggy. The Giro already has all of these. I don’t see the logic in encouraging greater risk-taking by offering prizes for even faster descending.
The tributes to Wouter Weylandt by the Giro organisers seem a little hollow to me now. They must have short memories…

Pax May 2, 2017 at 5:59 am

Safety first?

If a racer is trying to win this award and is not at the front thus has to pass and thus put others at risk to win a prize, it’s just not worth it. As mentioned above, add in cars, motorcycles, non-perfect roads, wet roads, or melting snow, the sun at the wrong angle…. AND add some riders on disc brakes which will be faster, and others not?

As Steve P and Mike W mention- Wouter Weylandt and Chad Young are in our memories.

So if Pirelli wants to sponsor something exciting…. here some ideas – but I am sure other readers can come up with better ideas.
1) how about adding a twist to the golden kilometer, found in the BinckBank Tour (Eneco Tour), perhaps including some uphill and downhill sections, or perhaps over a 2-3km section – where you get to use your ‘tires’
2) add the best time for various sections – perhaps a strade bianchi section (if there is one), and a cobble section
3) do this competition independent of the stage either before or after,,, or perhaps the riders wait for the road to be clear and then go down with gaps…. then they can catch up with the grupetto,,, or the timeline is relaxed.

Or more silly
3) add a mtn bike cross section after the race – that various riders can do
4) add a pre-race timed section where they can race the pedestrian from several years ago on a cruzer bike.
5) add a tandem pre/post race where they race with a volunteer from the crowd, from the same or opposite sex,,, in a 1km fun race
6) add a timed section to see which sports director is fastest driving his car down all the turns of the Stelvio
7) add a competition to see what fan can run next to the riders the longest without obstructing the race

ebbe May 2, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Isn’t this in fact already a twist on the golden kilometer? Each of those 10 segments is it’s own “golden descend”, with a (small) prize for the fastest time on that segment. And then the overall is made up by adding up the performances on these 10 segments. The concept is really quite similar to a golden kilometer.

Pirelli is sponsoring this (and the idea might have even come from them) because they’ve got a new tire on the market, that is supposed to provide “extra grip”. This makes the link to descending very obvious. And if they want it to be about the art of descending, they obviously won’t put uphill/cobble/gravel sections in it. Just as they won’t put descends in the climbers classification.

If they would have just released a “puncture proof” tire, then a “gravel/cobble prize” would make sense. But they’d be better off sponsoring Strade Bianche in that case.

Peter May 2, 2017 at 6:54 am

Seems to me that the sponsor and Giro have already won. In one day they have gotten immense (and free) social media coverage about how thrilling the race will be. We are giving them (and I don’t just mean the respondents on this blog) exactly what they would want – an image of a superbly thrilling and perhaps dangerous event that deserves even more of our attention from the safety and warmth of our couches.

As a business move, this has already succeeded.

And I have to admit, if it were me running the Giro or the sponsor publicity team, I would call this off on Thursday.

Pax May 4, 2017 at 5:44 am

Excellent call Peter

Colin Cox May 2, 2017 at 7:25 am

Inring, please send me the link to order some of that brown chamois cream.
The leader in that competition should be awarded the brown shorts at the completion of each stage.

jollygoodvelo May 2, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Perhaps Bardet and Pozzovivo have been wining it for years without anyone noticing?

Megi May 2, 2017 at 9:54 am

What about medical costs? Presumably both race and teams have insurance in place to cover the medical costs of major or career ending/ life changing injuries? Will an insurance company refuse to pay out when someone is badly injured going downhill on the grounds the prize is too inherently and obviously dangerous and they may have been going for it? Who then will pay the doctors? The rider?

The Inner Ring May 2, 2017 at 10:05 am

Not to make a pro or anti response on the Giro prize but worth noting that medical insurance or social security entitlement up to a certain level is a requirement for all pro cyclists, they cannot start the Giro without it (there is also cover for disability and life insurance too).

Richard S May 2, 2017 at 9:58 am

I don’t see how this is any more dangerous than a rider deciding they want to make up some time on a descent and jumping clear, forcing a few to chase. The one thing I’d say is there’s probably a few too many. Maybe just the Stelvio would’ve done? Just as a thought was this potentially a ploy to keep the big name sprinters in the race who usually slope off after a couple of weeks to prepare for the Tour?

RonDe May 2, 2017 at 12:14 pm

They still will. Not being at the Tour is a risk too far.

Ecky Thump May 2, 2017 at 10:09 am

Hopefully the riders act as one voice and the CPA steps in to pull the plug on this one.
And if RCS persist with the plan, the riders should leave the prize unclaimed.
Don’t attend the podium ceremonies too.

Ecky Thump May 3, 2017 at 7:09 am

*speak* with one voice even.
Unless Marcel Marceau has made a miraculous comeback and joined FDJ 🙂

Anonymous May 2, 2017 at 10:25 am

There should be a prize for most “Stylish Rider” over the 3 weeks, which of course would not include any of this goonish pedalling whilst perched on the top tube! grates on me every time I see a rider doing that.

Dave May 2, 2017 at 11:58 am

Can we drag the KOM competition into the electronic age too then? Points don’t go to the fastest climbers but the first over designated summits. Or would this just be more grist to the mill for the doping cynics who already time climbs?

ebbe May 2, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Or it might also put some of the argumentation of those doping cynics in perspective. In last year’s Giro, Nibali received a lot of critique for his performance winning back a lot of time, and thereby winning the Giro, on the last big climb(s). But looking at climbing times of all riders (which nobody did of course – they only compared the times of the top contenders), he certainly wasn’t the fasted overall. If “climbing fast” equals “suspicious”, then Nibali wasn’t the most suspicious on that day.

I really like the idea of a prize for and classification of timed climbs. But not as a replacement for “first at the top” (current KOM), because that involves an aspect of tactics and willingness to attack early. The two can exist simultaneously.

Eskerrik Asko May 2, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Completely off-topic, but in cross-country skiing there is one such or almost such an event. The last stage of “Tour de Ski” – the idea of which was obviously enough taken from road cycling – features a climb up the Alpe Cermis.
(The height difference is about 420 meters and most of it is too steep to ski up using any variation of “normal skiing” technique and many view it as a travesty of skiing and most participants hate it, but…)
It is a pursuit race with the intervals based upon the time gaps in the GC and the first skier to cross the finish line is of course the overall winner, but the stage win goes to the skier with the best “segment time”.
Those who win or podium the stage are invariably the skiers with the lightest body weight, in other words very much those who most resemble “mountain stage specialists” in cycling.
The stage winners get their full quote of points and cash prizes and a WC victory added to their “palmares”, but it is not held in very high esteem by anyone conceŕned.

Neuron1 May 3, 2017 at 11:10 pm

ebbe and Eskerrick, those are great ideas. Why not have the KOM for first rider to pass the mountain summit and another for the actual fastest time up the climb. The timed climbs could be limited to the major high mountains so that the overall cannot be taken by a breakaway specialist, unless he actually was the fastest. It would be like a series of uphill time trials over the course of the entire GT. A domestique climber could actually be the winner due to their diligent work for the team leader.

The Inner Ring May 2, 2017 at 1:18 pm

It can be done but it’s not so good for TV, we would not know who to watch as riders engage in their own private uphill time trials, eg a rider first to the top of the climb may not be the fastest up.

The Wee Hon May 2, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Just as a matter of interest – how are these segments being timed?
Will they be relying purely on GPS transponder data (eg as Strava), or using fixed timing equipment (eg as ITT) ?
And would this info be available in real time?

The Inner Ring May 2, 2017 at 1:19 pm

It’s not clear but I imagine it’s the timing chip, they’re on all rider’s bikes every day.

StevhanTI May 3, 2017 at 11:34 am

Which gives quite a potential for mistimings or even fraud given that riders change bikes during races…

ChasM May 2, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Seems like a brain fart from the Giro organisers. Did they stop to wonder why the idea didn’t catch on after its 1968 experiment?

Sam G May 2, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Descending is one of the core skills of a pro-cyclist and race organizers should try to recognize all individual skills e.g. KOM, Sprinting, as well as overall ability e.g. GC.

However in this instance promoting overly-fast descending is obviously dangerous, if it is linked to time. Instead the organizers could award the jersey at their own digression. Using different factors to come to the decision e.g. safely shepherding the protected rider down a mountain, closing a gap to a rival or safely navigating a bunch down a wet decent.

This could be used to award leadership, skill or impact. As long as it was not timed and promoted unnecessary racing on top of an already dangerous part of the race.

ebbe May 2, 2017 at 1:39 pm

The Belgian cycling federation is asking to have this forbidden: https://twitter.com/TomVanDamme/status/859335693306396672

IanPa May 2, 2017 at 1:42 pm

If only the pro’s could use disc brakes….

Tom May 2, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Come on Betancur – Lets hope breakfast buffets are provided at Movistar’s accommodation for the month.

Ferdi May 2, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Betancur is not doing the Giro this time.

Sonja Neteu May 3, 2017 at 3:03 am

-1

frood May 2, 2017 at 2:28 pm

a true test of the best descender would have to ban pedalling – it could be called the Aaron Gwin Trophy!

Anonymous May 2, 2017 at 2:41 pm

I predict that if this goes ahead it will turn out to be a dud. It will be won by someone who does two things:
a) gets in the break when the timed descent is near the beginning of the stage as breakaways tend to descend faster than the peloton
b) otherwise ride with the grupetto (who usually descend quickest), but deliberately get dropped near the top of the summit, so time can be gained by catching up. It’s easier to catch onto the back of a group than to attack of the front (with the bonus of going largely unnoticed)

Rich May 2, 2017 at 2:42 pm

I didn’t mean that to be anonymous. I want credit if proven correct.

Joe Saroni May 2, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Utterly ridiculous competition. All the Giro needs are riders taking unnecessary risks on the downhill for a worthless competition. At a time in the sport were safety is an issue.
We accept that taking risks downhill are fully part of the sport where GC, time cutoffs, and stage wins are inherent to the sport. But barreling downhill just to be the cumulative fastest descender is just plain stupid.

Strictly Amateur / The GCW May 2, 2017 at 3:23 pm

To chime in:

There is good and bad in most things; seems there is more bad in this decision. It exposes organizer in a light I’d expect them to avoid. & I’d be surprised if this decision isn’t changed for the better before the 100th starts.

Creating incentive for additional risk in arguably the riskiest aspect of racing (on roads w/ all manor of potholes, sand, gravel, snow, ice, water, fog, spectators, dogs…) is asking for trouble; maybe clearly so; maybe on a legal level.

The potential for a lightning strike…

irungo txuletak May 2, 2017 at 4:24 pm

too risky and also not watcheable on TV. I really don’t understand the concept.

Vitus May 2, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Cycling needs such a prize as bad as a whiny Lance interview at Oprah’s. Bonkers.

Ferdi May 2, 2017 at 4:59 pm

I don’t think it’s a good idea, but it shows how desperate organisers are to spice up the racing and get more attention, even after two thrilling vintage Giri in 2015 and 2016. I hope we have another one too this year, with a great set of contenders, although I have the feeling something is not going right this year. My main concern is that pro cycling loses Italy.

gabriele May 2, 2017 at 7:04 pm

My (wild) guess is that it was the sponsor’s idea, like, “look, we might give you money for this, what do you say?”, and the Giro never says “no” when it’s about grabbing some money (remember that ol’ green jersey?).

That’s the way they always were, and Cairo will just boost this attitude; they aren’t especially desperate this year, on the contrary, even less so about “spicing up the racing” (I think we barely had one boring edition in the last ten years or so, and even before, although the technical level was low in the first part of the 2000s, the racing tended to be compelling barring at most a couple of seasons) not to speak of “getting more attention”, audience data are fine and tend to grow – they just successfully raised +140% the Italian TV rights price…

The Inner Ring May 2, 2017 at 7:14 pm

I didn’t know the price had gone up, that’s interesting. Worth noting that there will be more live coverage, at least on RAI this year with the promise that the mountain stages shown live from start to finish.

gabriele May 2, 2017 at 9:49 pm

I think that RAI is going to spend for the Giro, summing up TV rights and production costs, more or less one half of what they’re going to offer next year to broadcast partially the Champions League – one match whenever they’re playing (which they don’t produce, I think, hence they spend everything in TV rights).
Apparently, they found the money renouncing totally to F1 from 2018 on: it is expensive and doesn’t reward, given the drop in audience they’ve been living since the year 2000:
https://thejudge13.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/italy-f1-tv.jpg
Note that RAI was reportedly spending more to produce their own F1 stream to be broadcast along the international one than for the whole Giro (!).
Sending materials to Singapur or wherever wasn’t cheap, and I’d say that the RAI F1 journalists were being treated pretty well, too.
The F1 TV rights, as such, do sit roughly halfway between Giro’s (TV rights only) and Champions Leagues’s (at least, in RAI’s case).
Yeah, let’s copy Bernie’s model, that’s perfectly sustainable: you slowly kill a sport and you get Tamara in return.

Larry T May 2, 2017 at 10:38 pm

+1 I’ve asked this question many times – why destroy the sport ala F1 or MOTOGP just to make a few Bernie types rich? Velon and their henchmen seem determined to see pro cycling race down this same dead-end. Good news that RAI is no longer interested!

gabriele May 2, 2017 at 10:47 pm

@Larry T
This is what I read around, we’ll see what happens – obviously in Italy there are economic interests and political connection which go well beyond any meaningful decision for a public TV :-/

CA May 2, 2017 at 9:44 pm

Exactly – sponsor is a tyre company, wants a competition that tests the tyre’s ability to grip….

Nick May 3, 2017 at 11:21 am

I bet Pirelli will love it if somebody using Michelin or Conti tyres wins this.

ebbe May 3, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Pirelli don’t make bicycle tires, so they’re probably prepared for a rider on a different brand tires to win this 😉

Nick May 3, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Well, yes, but those particular manufacturers also make car and motorbike tyres, and no doubt would have been very happy to produce adverts saying that Pirelli have given them prizes for their descending capability.

Anyway, it’s been dropped now.

noel May 2, 2017 at 5:05 pm

bad, bad idea… will mostly be ignored unless someone really hurts themselves, or others… the Giro really doesn’t need this hostage to fortune.

sebas May 2, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Fantastic idea!! Downhill is a part of this discipline. It’s exactly the same like king of the mountains prize – if you’re not good enough in climbing, you don’t compete. Nobody urges anyone to compete. Of course it’s gonna be dangerous like Formula One or MMA, but again, everyone is free to ignore BDP and focus on climbing, time trialing, GC or simply ride to survive. Let it to the guys who know the art of descending. As simple as it is. BTW Giro was always innovative with better, more creative stages but somehow people still prefer this boring Tour de France. Yet again Giro sets the trend.

PaulG May 2, 2017 at 10:30 pm

If someone good get me to the top of the Mountain….I’d have a go.

Sadly I am not a climber………

Ed May 2, 2017 at 10:58 pm

I am glad to see that good descending skills will finally be rewarded. It’s a small prize, so it won’t motivate riders that can’t descend well to compete.

Really disappointed to see all the negative comments to this idea. Descending is already part of the race, and timing it is already part of the overall.

And bringing up WW & others that have come to a grim end is really in bad taste – if any of you are that concerned why don’t you lobby to have all races changed to only uphill sections timed? Sanitize all racing in the name of “safety”!

STS May 3, 2017 at 12:00 am

+1! But going all out on a climb knowing that you don’t have to keep anything left for the descent is sooo dangerous. You could kill yourself by risking a heart attack. No, then let’s go all the way and define a maximum watt per kg limit they are not allowed to exceed in order to protect their health.
Oh wait, that would neutralize the race completely? Great! Then they can all ride together and celebrate love, peace and happiness on the road and have a big party with beers, pizza and sausages after each stage. Now that would be fun to watch, wouldn’t it. It would also solve the problem of much less public interest for women’s racing because they could ride with the men. Just lower the max. W/kg threshold to a value that anyone can safely reach.
Jeeesh, there were times when this was considered to be the toughest mens’ (and womens’) sport.

Larry T May 3, 2017 at 12:22 am

+1 All the hysteria makes one think Pirelli was going to put flaming hoops on the course and make the racers go through them.

Eskerrik Asko May 3, 2017 at 4:53 am

To see expressions of opinions that oppose one’s own as mere hysteria is one of the more distasteful characteristics of the middle-aged male with one leg in retirement.
PS This is an undisputable truth that I myself have been told in not so kind words.

Vitus May 3, 2017 at 8:11 pm

+1 And I want a comeptition where we just kick some middle aged Larry’s over a cliff and count who lands fastest. Real men don’t worry.

Larry T May 3, 2017 at 8:48 pm

Hysteria – exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement, especially among a group of people. Pretty much describes the reaction to the Pirelli prize in my view.
Regarding your nasty personal attack – who knew this forum could head in the “You Suck!” “NO, you suck!” direction so easily?
Your description of me might be accurate at present, but I can assure you I would have written the same thing 3+ decades ago… when I was a nationally ranked pro motorcycle roadracer as well as avid cyclist.
I will make no further comments on this subject since the forum deserves better and the offending “fraught with danger” idea has since been withdrawn. Have a nice day.

MikeF May 3, 2017 at 9:24 am

There are often plenty of ways to mitigate a danger, or at least not exaggerate it. We’re not stuck with a binary “accept danger entirely and throw away all safety rules” versus “ban it altogether”

Duncan May 3, 2017 at 10:55 am

+1 This is the crux of the matter: deciding the balance of risk.

Over time with repeated events, this competition will likely increase both excitement and the number of injuries or fatalities.

Do we want an increase in both? The answer seems to be a matter of opinion.

Othersteve May 3, 2017 at 12:37 am

Would it be considered performance enhancing if a winner of the descending award accepted leaded water bottles from a team car?

ebbe May 3, 2017 at 1:01 pm

RCS have now scrapped the descenders competition and prize. As was to be expected after the outrage

DJS May 3, 2017 at 2:38 pm

…and it’s scratched:
http://www.gazzetta.it/Giroditalia//03-05-2017/giro-d-italia-premio-il-miglior-discesista-non-ci-sara-20027556814.shtml?refresh_ce-cp
My Italian is very bad but what I understood from a Dutch newssite is that the prize is gone but times will still be recorded and published.

Larry T May 3, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Sadly, it’s gone so now Chicken Little and his friends can start worrying about riding up the side of an active volcano as they did a few years ago. I think this too is “fraught with risk” as they say, but won’t stop me from going up there to watch, provided CL and his friends don’t manage to get this scuttled as well?

Hank May 4, 2017 at 1:06 am

As I don’t participate in cycling nor watch it for any sort of risk, I don’t see any advantage in adding risk.

Risk exists, of course, but those far more knowledgable than I weighed in, and so I think the decision was correct. I suppose if someone watches a sport, for example many motorsports, and part of what they watch “for” is the competitiors to overcome fear and face danger, then they won’t agree with me, nor would they agree with those who were not in favor of this idea.

Bike racing appears, statistically, to be pretty damn dangerous already. There are quite a few crashes and for racers, crashing appears more or less accepted, even at the amateur level.

So as I sit back and watch the descents in the grand tours this summer, I’m fine with admiring the skill and being astounded at the speed. I don’t need any enhancement.

I rode the L’etape California last weekend which is the Stage 5 of the Tour of California. For me, the goal was simply to get up and down Mt. Baldy, racing down it just shows the skill level of an actual pro, like Phil Gaimon who also rode it. But the fact that Phil Gaimon can easily descend at 40+ mph when me and my pals stick to 25mph and the brakes is enough. Gaimon appears fast enough, so if he (and any of his pro colleages) say something is unsafe, I will take their word for it.

sebas May 3, 2017 at 8:16 pm

It’s all over before it even started haha But I’d suggest some other innovation, a classification for TUE-users in GDI/TDF/VAE. It would be really nice for the fans to see who’s riding seriously and who is boosted by TUEs (Wiggins 3 times, Froome twice just to start with the cleanest team under the sun and SKY 😉 UCI should take it under consideration and create a Best TUE Rider of the Year Prize. I hope the peloton won’t oppose this idea.

ps. I can’t wait to see Christopher winning for the fourth time TDF… hahha

Hayden May 5, 2017 at 7:02 pm

Fastest descender prize is an excellent idea. It’s a race that includes uphill, downhill and flat sections…. Racers will crash on all of these (sprinters almost without fail), but to finish first, first you must finish. Adding a prize for the lowest cumative descent times is a good way to add interest. At least trial it. And who knows, maybe it will provide a legitimate reason to have disk brakes on road bikes…

DeMay May 2, 2017 at 2:10 pm

I like the idea. It’d be fair and square for good descenders!

simon May 3, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Free of name calling and you mock Chris Froome’s name?

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