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O'Connor slams Giro bosses on grim day in Italian Alps

Ben O'Connor has described the organisers of the Giro d'Italia as "dinosaurs" and the race as "one of the worst organised" after riders forced a change in the route amid miserable weather conditions in the Italian Alps.

Even with 80km shaved off the stage it was still slightly too long for the Australian who suffered during a steep finishing climb to lose time in his pursuit of a place on the podium on Sunday.

Nothing, however, seems to trouble Tadej Pogacar, who won his fifth stage of the 16 so far contested, racing away from the other general classification contenders in the final kilometres of the summit finish at the Dolomites ski resort of Val Gardena.

That extended his lead to seven minutes, 18 seconds and he seems certain to finish in Rome wearing the maglia rosa.

Giulio Pellizzari, the last of a breakaway group to keep Pogacar at bay, was second. The 20-year-old asked Pogacar for his sunglasses at the finish line and the Slovenian gave him his pink jersey too.

Dani Martinez came second to move above Geraint Thomas into second place overall. O'Connor had moved to within 51 seconds of Martinez but is now 84 seconds behind the Colombian, though only 62 behind Welshman Thomas whom he finished alongside on Tuesday.

Giro route in snowy conditions
Snow falls on the route of the 16th stage of the Giro d'Italia, persuading riders to force a change. (AP PHOTO)

Freezing rain and snow in the Italian Alps meant the stage from Livigno, which had been scheduled to climb to almost 2,500 metres, was changed and delayed.

It had been altered last week due to the risk of avalanches, but the deteriorating conditions prompted riders to vote on skipping the Umbrail Pass and a treacherous 20km descent, citing safety issues.

Confusion and anger reigned in Livigno before organisers decided on incorporating the climb but not the descent, which would be done in cars. That was then scrapped and replaced by a roll out of Livigno followed by a long neutralised period.

But the riders, many of whom had been sheltering under canopies from the snow, refused again as they wanted to avoid getting even colder and wetter before a transfer to the proper start point.

"Despite a handshake between the parties, the athletes did not show up at the start in Livigno," organisers RCS said in a statement.

Julian Alaphilippe
France's Julian Alaphilippe cycles through rain and fog on a doomed breakaway in the 16th stage. (AP PHOTO)

O'Connor was scathing as he put the riders' viewpoint to Eurosport.

"It's probably one of the worst organised races I think and I'm just being honest. This would never happen in 99% of other situations. It's just a shame that it is 2024 and you have dinosaurs who really don't see the human side of things."

Giro d'Italia director Mauro Vegni told Italian TV, "The mountains are like this, sometimes you have to face certain situations. Obviously, if you ask the riders if they like riding in rain and snow, they'll say no."

"I'd like to see him (Vegni) in our position, go outside on the bike and do the start of the stage and see what his answer is after those couple of hours," retorted O'Connor. "I wish he could experience it as he would have a sense of what it is like rather than doing it in his car and saying 'this is great for people to watch'."

Wednesday's 17th stage is another brutal one. Apart from one short stretch, the riders will constantly be climbing or descending on the 159km route from Selva di Val Gardena, with four classified climbs before the top category ascent to the finish on the Passo Brocon.

with agencies