MILAN (VN) — Women’s cycling is hardly speeding toward the world championships next week. Competitors, like Marianne Vos (Rabobank) and Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon), will arrive in Florence under-prepared and upset with the current state of affairs.
Chaos ruled and ruined their final pre-worlds event, the Giro della Toscana. The riders were so shocked with the security — road conditions and passing cars — that most went on strike and abandoned Sunday’s final stage before it started.
“The protest is disgraceful and self-serving,” race organizer Brunello Fanini told Tutto Bici. “The so-called big names and women’s cycling in general lost today. And in all likelihood, the Toscana stage race ends here after 18 years.”
Fanini lacked support. Most riders sided with Vos, Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products Uck), Noemi Cantele (Be Pink), and Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda). On Saturday, 112 riders arrived in Capannori but only 49 completed the fourth and final stage Sunday in Florence. That means 59 did not start, and four others did not finish the stage.
With overnight leader Vos and the top four riders out, Aude Biannic (S.C. Michela Fanini Rox) won the stage and Claudia Häusler (Tibco-To The Top) won the general classification. Women’s cycling, in the eyes of some, took the right step.
“We always want to race, but rider safety needs to be a priority,” Stevens wrote on Twitter. “Proud of the women who took a stand in #GirodellaToscana.”
Cycling made a strong statement, added Vos. “Cycling is dangerous enough without traffic on the roads!”
“No amount of reassurances by the organizers or the police was going to re-establish the confidence lost during the previous days (and years, as far as this particular race is concerned),” said Orica-AIS sport director Martin Barras in a press release. “That made my position clear (we don’t race) and it was now a matter of seeing how many teams thought likewise and how consistent we would be.”
Fanini explained that he is unable to control construction, some of which is under way for the worlds, and to stop cars entering the course. However, he said he managed and maneuvered the race around these dangers.
A few Italian teams raced ahead. Dino Salvoldi, sport director of the Italian national team, agreed with the security concerns but not with the strike. His squad finished the entire race. Salvoldi told La Gazzetta dello Sport, “There would’ve been many more intelligent ways to handle this.”
The strike stopped the race and forced those in Lucca, Italy to think about their sport. It happened just hours after UCI President Pat McQuaid and his rival for re-election, Brian Cookson, spoke in Zurich about, among other things, women’s cycling. The candidates, the big names, and many insiders agree: changes need to happen in women’s cycling.
Grinding to a halt in Tuscany does little for Stevens, Vos, and others who are preparing for the worlds. The team trial kicks off the week in six days and the big event, the road race, is only 12 days away on September 28.