James Knox (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) has lifted the lid on the revolt that led to a stage at the Giro d’Italia being shortened by over 100km.
The Giro was plunged into more chaos when the peloton funnelled into a convoy of team buses and drove away from the start, instead of taking the more traditional mode of transport seen at Grand Tours: their bikes.
The decision was reached after riders protested about race safety, with organisers eventually relenting and agreeing to shorten the route due to bad weather.
The riders had already endured a brutal stage on Thursday which included the fearsome Stelvio climb followed by a freezing descent through snowfields.
What was meant to be a 251km stage from Morbegno to Asti in the rain, instead became a 133km ride starting from Abiategrasso.
“There were whispers about it last night,” Knox told Orla Chennaoui on The Breakaway.
“It was a bit of an unnecessary day. I think every rider, ex-rider and fan could see that 260km on the flat between mountain days is a bit unnecessary.
“We came to the start in the rain and everyone was tired, having spent more time yesterday on the bike than in bed, and we were huddled under a tent waiting.
‘Everyone’s on the limit’ – Knox on brutal Giro
“When we were supposed to go to the start, no one was really in the mood to go and we started kicking up a fuss basically.
“Then a few of the senior riders, more politically involved riders, went and talked to the organisers - explained the feelings of the riders, that they hadn’t been listened to, that we didn’t want to be treated like this day after day after day. In the end, the race was shortened.”
- Wiggins: Peloton made more of a stand against rain than racism
- 'Someone will pay' – Giro director Vegni fumes at rider revolt
- Riders take bus for first 100km of Giro stage after peloton protest
The race did belatedly start, with Josef Cerny emerging victorious from a 14-man break to take the stage.
“I don’t think it changed the outcome,” continued Knox.
'At least fight for something that's meaningful' - Wiggins slams Giro peloton
“In fact, it probably made the race more exciting because if we’d raced 260km, I don’t think anyone would have been interested or excited, we would have just rolled around for hours and hours.
“Everyone’s just on the limit. The top guys are doing what they can, and if you look around in the bunch no one’s got much more to give. If you want to have an exciting race, you need to have riders with some legs left.”
‘We weren’t consulted about strike’
Bahrain-McLaren general manager Rod Ellingworth admitted he was blindsided by the decision and said his riders were “happy to race”.
The team still hold realistic GC ambitions with Pello Bilbao in fourth, 1:19 adrift of Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) in the maglia rosa. Jai Hindley is 12 seconds back from his teammate Kelderman, with Ineos Grenadiers' Tao Geoghegan Hart a further three seconds back in third.
‘We weren’t consulted about Giro strike, our riders were happy to race’ – Bahrain boss Ellingworth
“We were totally unaware of it until it came over on the race radio from the riders saying there was some sort of strike. So we weren’t consulted at all prior to the start," Ellingworth told Chennaoui.
“The guys have had quite a hard few days. We’ve been leaving the hotel really early in the morning. This morning was 7am, pitch black. Last night we got back at 7:30pm, pitch black.
“I think everybody feels quite fatigued with it all. But the only way we’re going to beat the Sunweb guys is through the younger guys being really fatigued and having another 250km in the legs, which could have potentially helped for tomorrow.
“From what I could tell from our riders, they were happy to race. None of them were complaining. I don’t think any of them were particularly looking forward to the stage but they weren’t complaining.
“And we had talked about wearing these guys [GC rivals] down. We knew that Pello is coming out of the Tour [de France] and his level is staying the same. He’s not feeling very fresh, but his level of climbing is staying the same.
“Our goal was hoping that the younger riders, Hindley and Tao, would potentially have a bad day and that could happen tomorrow. It is what it is and we’ll take it on.”
'There will be consequences' - Vegni fumes at revolt