Bradley Wiggins branded the eleventh-hour decision to shorten a stage at the Giro d’Italia a “shambles” and asked where these protests were when Kevin Reza spoke out against racism at the Tour de France.
A revolt in the peloton – although not a unanimous one – forced organisers to slash the 258km Stage 19 on Friday, with the riders spending the first 134km on a bus.
The decision came after riders protested about race safety, with the stage coming on the back of a brutal day which included the fearsome Stelvio climb followed by a freezing descent through snowfields.
Race director Mauro Vegni fumed at the decision, saying “someone would pay”, while Bahrain-McLaren chief Rod Ellingworth said his team were not consulted and were happy to race.
But Wiggins used the protests to highlight another issue in the sport: the meek response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Reza, the only black rider in the peloton at the Tour, said cycling had a "lot to learn and is really far behind" when it came to racism and diversity – prompting a select group of riders to scribble anti-racism messages on their masks ahead of the final stage of the Tour in Paris… and little else.
‘Look at your belly button less’ – Kevin Reza calls on white riders to address racism
“To ride your bike for 250km, whether in the rain or not, is a little bit disproportionate to what some people have to go out to do in the world – i.e. frontline in the army, working in the NHS in the current climate,” said Wiggins.
“Lots of people sat in offices ride their bikes at weekends for passion and love for the sport, that’s why people fall in love with this sport because of what these riders have to go through.
“I tell you now, and it’s not even raining anymore, many people would love to be out there doing 250km all day on their bike, rather than sat behind a desk or, in some cases, not even working because of the current climate.
“We’re lucky to have a Giro d’Italia this year. Make the most of it. We’ve seen what it’s like when there’s no races.
“They’ve made more of a stand today than they did for Kevin Reza and the stand against racism at the Tour de France.”
Wiggins continued his argument on The Breakaway: “You compare that to the stand they made for Reza at the Tour, they’re chalk and cheese.
“They made more of a demonstration today than they did for that. If you’re going to fight for something in this sport, at least fight for something that’s meaningful and going to impact change for the better.”
'At least fight for something that's meaningful' - Wiggins slams Giro peloton
Friday’s action eventually started in Abiategrasso near Milan, 124km from the finish in Asti.
“The whole thing is just a shambles and I think everyone ends up looking stupid,” said Wiggins.
“Cycling is escapism for a lot of people from the strain and pressure of daily life.
“I realise now that riders have a responsibility to ride. That’s why they’re elite cyclists – it’s doing something that normal people perceive themselves as not able to do.
“It’s because of how difficult it is and how many challenges you have to overcome in a three-week race.
“The riders to protest the way they did, with no unity as usual, no one seems to know what’s going on, the race director making threats. The whole thing is a shambles and the only ones who end up losing out are the viewers who watch these races.
“I can see everyone’s point, the riders don’t want to ride in the rain. Do we need 250km stages the day after a Stelvio stage?
“[But] it just shows the lack of unity, the lack of organisation, the lack of power and speech the riders have as a group. They talk about unions, but they don’t operate as a union. It’s just a willy-waving contest.”
‘We weren’t consulted about Giro strike, our riders were happy to race’ – Bahrain boss Ellingworth