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Commenting 24 hours after the AIGCP issued a strong statement calling for a rejigging of the results from the controversial 16th stage of the Giro d’Italia, that association’s president Luuc Eisenga has said it is still awaiting a response from both the race organisers and the UCI.
“It is very hard to judge for us what happens next,” he told Cycling Tips on Thursday. “I think it is a matter of the organiser and the UCI taking the demands of the teams seriously in this matter. It is not in our hands now, it is up to them to respond.”
Eisenga said he wasn’t ruling out further action if the Giro organisers RCS Sport and the UCI don’t address the concerns.
The AGICP, which is the association of professional teams in cycling, issued its statement on Wednesday morning following the refusal of the UCI to consider adjusting the overall general classification time of race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
He and several other riders are said to have ignored a message transmitted over race radio directing riders not to attack on the descent of the Stelvio.
The move ensured that Quintana, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) had a near two minute gap at the bottom of the climb. Other riders who had stopped to change clothing were left with a lot of ground to make up, and ultimately finished a long way back.
The time gaps saw a change in race leadership in the race, with the Maglia Rosa passing from the shoulders of Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma Quick Step) to Quintana.
The AIGCP demanded on Wednesday that the time gaps opened up on that descent be removed from the general classification standings. This would effectively reduce the lead Quintana opened up over the other riders, and also move fourth-placed Rolland and ninth-placed Hesjedal further back in the overall standings.
The statement was issued hours after team representatives held talks prior to Wednesday’s stage start in Sarnonico [pictured above]. There were signs of tension between some teams, with Quintana’s team manager Eusebio Unzue in heated discussion with Tinkoff Saxo manager Bjarna Riis, and clearly a lot of strong feeling.
However the UCI indicated that the time gaps couldn’t be changed. Cycling Tips understands that one complicating factor is that the decision to instruct the riders not to attack on the descent on Tuesday came from the race organisation alone.
It appears that those involved within the Giro d’Italia’s structure may have taken the action without requesting the race commissaires’ involvement or permission. If so this may limit the enforceability of any penalties against the riders concerned.
One source also told this website that team representatives didn’t lodge their appeal against the result to the commissaires within the normal timeframe after the stage and in the normal manner.
Eisenga said that he wasn’t clear if the latter was the case or not, but pointed out that teams protested to both the organisers and the UCI commissaires during the stage. “As soon as it happened there were protests,” he said. “They couldn’t have reacted any sooner. They also protested again as soon as the commissaires and the organisers didn’t correct the times.
“It’s not enough for Mauro Vegni [the Giro d’Italia race organiser – ed.] to say that his intention of a different one to what Radio Tour announced. If the organiser heard something other than what he meant being broadcast, he should have corrected it right away. They didn’t do that.
“If the commissaires didn’t sign off on what was said by Radio Tour, they too should have reacted. Instead they claim not to have heard anything on the race radio.”
He said that whomever is to blame, the situation needs to be rectified. “All teams had agreed that what happened wasn’t in compliance with fair sportsmanship. That is why they demanded that the results were revised.”
With no developments in the 24 hours since the team managers made their feelings clear, Eisenga was asked if he felt that the teams were not being taken seriously on the matter. He said that it was difficult to say at this point in time. “That’s hard to judge. Being taken seriously, and listening to what people really want and acting accordingly are two different things. We need to see what they decide to do.”
One avenue Eisenga said that he intended to follow was to speak about the AIGCP’s concerns with UCI president Brian Cookson. Speaking after the election of the Briton to the role of UCI president, Eisenga had talked about his optimism that it would lead to a better era of cooperation between the various stakeholders in the sport.
He told Cycling Tips that he believes that the governing body needs to listen more to the concerns of teams in the wake of such moments.
“Of course, yes,” he said, when asked if he intended taking up the matter with Cookson. “We are on a good talking level.”
“As I wrote in the release, it is very hard to accept that rules and procedures are put above fair sportsmanship between the athletes and the teams.”
“Ultimately it is the UCI that has to make the call if they want to change something or not,” he continued, referring to the time gaps. “It is in their hands. But I think teams wanting to have fair play is something that everybody should want.
“If your core business is ruling sport and one of the biggest and most beautiful events of the world doesn’t work, then of course you have to consider if you are doing everything right.”
Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport have yet to issue an official response to the AIGCP demands for an adjustment to the general classification. In the meantime the race continues and moves one day closer to its conclusion, but Eisenga’s comments show that the matter may not be at an end.