Will riders face court over the Giro della Toscana protest?

Last month the Giro della Toscana, the only women's stage race on the UCI calendar with their highest .HC ranking, ended in chaos. The majority of the riders refused to race the final stage, in protest at unacceptably unsafe conditions, and the response from the race organisers has been severe. Not content with accusing riders of deliberately sabotaging the race, they are also threatening to take riders to court, and have asked the Italian Cycling Federation to investigate the issue.

If you didn't follow the story at the time, the Giro Toscana has a history of chaos - last year's final stage was neutralised by the peloton in protest over issues including multiple misdirections.  This year the race started even more chaotically, with traffic in the middle of the race, police cover provided only for the front group, and inexperienced media in the race end-zones, that resulted in a camera-woman getting in the way of the final sprint and getting hit by a rider.  As previous neutralisations hadn't made an impact, the riders took stronger measures, and a lot of the teams refused to ride the final stage, as they were not convinced it would be a safe race.  (You can find all the Podium Café coverage on the issues in our storystream)

The protest had been co-ordinated by Elisa Longo Borghini, as the representative of the Italian Professional Cyclists' Association in the peloton, the ACCPI; Marianne Vos, the race leader and representative on the UCI riders' commission; and two of the biggest names in Italian women's cycling, three-times World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, and Noemi Cantele.  They protested in the face of threats from the race organisers that if they didn't ride, the race would never be run again.

It was always going to be emotional for the race organisers, as Brunello Fanini set up the Societá Michela Fanini, which runs the SC Michela Fanini Rox team and the Giro Toscana, in honour of his daughter, Michela, who died, aged just 21, in a 1994 car accident.  Immediately after the protest, he called it "disgraceful and self-serving", and he went on, in an interview with Francesco Sulas on Cicloweb, to accuse the Italian riders - and specifically Bronzini, Cantele and Longo Borghini - of deliberately sabotaging the race because they didn't want to ride the final stage in the rain, and persuading Vos not to ride.

In a statement on the race website, the organisers said they were considering legal action, and the ACCPI have reported (in the original Italian, or via google translate to English) that Fanini has asked the Sports Justice committee of the Italian Cycling Federation to sanction the riders. There's a statement from Fanini about this action on LoSchermo.it (Italian and google translated)

The ACCPI are fully in support of the riders, and are preparing a submission to the Federal Prosecutor's Office to demonstrate that the race was unsafe (UPDATE! This is mostly likely the office of the Italian Cycling Federation, rather than a legal body - google translate was unclear)

It seems crazy that riders could face actual prosecution for pulling out of a race they felt was unsafe, but it's very good that the ACCPI is supporting them all the way.  I hope this turns out to be an empty threat - but if it isn't, I hope that we, the fans, can rally round the riders and show our support.

The UCI have asked their commissaires for a report on the race, and I understand that they were planning to issue a statement after they've had that. The race isn't on the UCI calendar for 2014, but we don't yet know if this is because Fanini has followed his initial threat to never hold the race again, or his plans in the Sulas interview to only hold it for specific teams - or if the UCI haven't given it a ranking for 2014.

If you find any updates, please add them to the comments - and of course, we'll be following this story all the way.

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