Giro d’Italia sparks controversy with new Pirelli-backed competition

Giro d’Italia organiser RCS Sport has sparked controversy with the introduction of a new prize category backed by Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli for this year’s 100th edition of the cycling showpiece.

The Pirelli Premio Miglior Discesista will produce a contest for the fastest descender over 10 sections of 10 stages during the 2017 edition of the ‘Grand Tour’ event, which takes place from May 5-28.

The Giro will award the fastest rider through each section with €500 ($533), a prize equivalent to that earned by the wearer of the best young riders’ jersey each day.

The rider with the most points at the end of the Giro will earn €5,000, with €3,000 for second and €2,000 for third place. The winner will earn the same as the victor of the competition for the best climber in the mountains.

The introduction of the new race class has sparked criticism from across the cycling community amid concerns over rider safety. Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt died after crashing on a mountain descent during the 2011 Giro and his race number of 108 has been retired in his memory.

Michael Carcaise, executive director of the ANAPRC riders’ union, told the CyclingNews website: “I won't give the competition sponsor what they seek by naming them again, but they and the Giro organisers should find another way to support this beautiful race and the riders who animate it.

“A 'fastest descender' competition is dangerous and irresponsible. Of course descending is already part of racing, but it should not be isolated into a new competition that incentivises risk-taking for its own sake.”