A major controversy has unfolded at the Giro Next Gen, the Under-23 version of the renowned Italian grand tour. No fewer than 31 riders have been disqualified following claims of cheating during a crucial stage of the race.
Unfair Advantage on the Steep Stelvio Climb
A substantial number of riders were captured in amateur footage hanging onto automobiles and motorcycles during the difficult Stelvio climb. This gave the riders an unfair advantage at what is considered one of the most difficult parts of the race. The banned cyclists included famous sportsmen such as Belgian cyclist Tijl De Decker, winner of this year’s Paris-Roubaix Under 23, and Britain’s Noah Hobbs of the Groupama-FDJ squad.
Four team staff members, along with their vehicles, were also ejected from the race. The incident has not only shaken the integrity of the competition but it has also harmed 15 of the 35 teams competing in the eight-stage race.
Strong Condemnation from the Italian Cycling Federation and the UCI
The episode drew harsh criticism from the head of the Italian cycling organisation, Cordiano Dagnoni, who expressed his dissatisfaction on Thursday. He remarked, “What we saw was really offensive to those who correctly interpret this sport. They are images that really hurt. It’s right to apply the rules and I’m above all disappointed by the behaviour of the sporting directors in the team cars, because they should be the first to teach the youngsters how to respect the rules.”
World governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), also backed the decision of the race organisers in a statement to BBC Sport, stating they “took the right decision”. The UCI fully supported the race organisers’ actions, emphasising the importance of adhering to the principles of fair play in cycling.
The controversial stage, a gruelling 119 km ride from Morbegno to Passo dello Stelvio, saw Johannes Staune-Mittet of Jumbo Vima claim victory. He beat France’s Alexy Faure-Prost to the finish line, with Ireland’s Darren Rafferty coming in third. As the race moves forward, the remaining athletes will need to redouble their efforts in order to reclaim the lost reputation of this year’s championship.
In an exciting finish to the fifth stage of the Giro Next Gen 2023, Lukas Nerurkar from Trinity Racing clinched the victory after a 159-kilometre stretch from Cesano Maderno to Manerba del Garda. Nerurkar proved his courage by outpacing Norway’s Trym Brennsaeter and Italy’s Francesco Busatto in the final sprint. Meanwhile, Colombian Santiago Umba earned a commendable fifth place finish. Despite the disruption produced by the mass disqualification, the race continues, with Johannes Staune-Mittet maintaining his lead and the sixth stage scheduled for Friday.