Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) has defended the riders' decision to protest ahead of stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia. In a statement on social media, the Australian said the 258km stage was deemed "unnecessary" by riders, in light of multiple early starts, the poor weather conditions, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Confusion reigned in Morbegno on Friday morning as the peloton huddled under a canopy long after the stage had been due to start. A vote had been held between teams in the build-up to the stage and another straw poll was taken at the start.
Hansen was a prominent figure in discussions between the riders and race organisers RCS. After much consternation, it was agreed that the stage would be drastically shortened, and everyone piled onto buses and into cars to head to the new start line, 124km from the finish.
"As many of you don’t know, there was a vote of 16 teams who asked to shorten the stage due to many super early mornings and long transfers," Hansen wrote in a post on Twitter. "Due to the fatigue of this race and on our immune systems, the riders thought it was even more unnecessary to do a 260km stage starting in the rain with a pandemic going on.
"Even though the choice to shorten the stage was not taken from those 16 teams, when I arrived at the start line only four riders were there. The rest were under the tent out of the rain. They called me in and everyone in the tent was in favour to shorten the stage."
Lotto Soudal’s General manager John Lelangue said that he disagreed with his rider's actions and that team was "on the side of RCS". Hansen also made it clear that his discussions with the race organisers were done as an individual and not as a representative of the Belgian team.
"I Adam Hansen, as an individual, spoke on behalf of all the riders who were not at the start line. Not Adam Hansen from Lotto Soudal," he said. "It was a collective choice of all riders who were not at the start line. Any rider wanting to start the race could have but they all chose not to and remained under the tent past the official race time, so it was a collective united choice."
Though the organisers acquiesced to the demands of the riders, race director Mauro Vegni has voiced his disgust at the situation and has subsequently threatened legal action.
"It’s an unacceptable decision, one that we’ve had to endure," Vegni told Italian broadcaster RAI after the stage got underway in Abbiategrasso. "Right now, we’re thinking about getting to Milan but then somebody will pay for this."
Just to make things double clear. @giroditalia @cpacycling @Lotto_Soudal pic.twitter.com/OVXFMPW2cZOctober 23, 2020