Giro d’Italia: Risk of avalanches end hopes of climbing the Gavia

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Race organisers cut Gavia climb from queen stage of Giro d’Italia 2019

Last week, Giro d’Italia race director Mauro Vegni suggested there was a 60 percent chance of the race climbing the legendary Passo Gavia, where Andy Hampsten famously rode through a snowstorm to set up victory in the 1988 Corsa Rosa.

According to Saturday’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, Vegni is far less optimistic now and could soon confirm the cutting of the Gavia from stage 16 and reveal a new, shorter stage with just the Passo del Mortirolo as the major climb of the day. Snow and freezing temperatures are also forecast for Tuesday.

Specialist crews have been working around the clock to cut through the huge banks of snow and clear the Passo Gavia. However, the risk of further bad weather and the significant risk of avalanches meant it had to be avoided.

When Hampsten and his rivals rode through the snow and froze in the cold in 1988, race organisers could do as they chose and riders were willing to race in any conditions. Now, the UCI’s Extreme Weather Protocol protects riders’ health and pushes back on pressure to force the riders race. New health and safety laws in Italy mean that the local authorities have the final word concerning sporting events, where it’s also important to protect the public who may try to watch the race on the high slopes of the Gavia.

“The thickness of the snow is reducing very slowly and so I think the chance of the race passing on the roads is very low,” snow expert for the local authorities, Federico Rota, told Tuttobiciweb.

The Passo Gavia was set to be the highest climb of this year’s Giro d’Italia and so award the prestigious Cima Coppi prize. That may now be awarded to Ilnur Zakarin after his win at the 2247m-high finish of Lago Serrù on Friday, or on the Mortirolo or a climb later in the Giro d’Italia.

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