"There is no doubt it is spectacular, but it is just a circus now," David Millar told Cyclingnews.com after the Tour of Italy's stage 16 time trial up to Plan de Corones.
The 31 year-old Slipstream rider did the 12.9km stage in a time of 46'48", 6'22" behind winner Franco Pellizotti, but was concerned that it was too much of a show on top of a difficult first week marked by long transfers, sketchy roads and inclement weather.
"Yes, definitely," Millar responded when asked. "You can do this stage one off, but not after the two mountain stages we had just done and the first week we did. It is the combination of everything that is getting to us. It is a good idea to do spectacular stuff like this, but not day in and day out, day in and day out."
Millar said he had a satisfactory ride. "I was using it as training, with a serious warm-up, trying to replicate it ... You don't really see it, but it is so hard."
The last time he could remember such a test was in the 2003 Tour of Spain when he raced up the Alto de Abantos.
Gasparotto hits out at organisers
Italy's Enrico Gasparotto finished six minutes behind the winner on the Plan de Corones time trial was similarly not impressed, calling for the rules of cycling to be changed to avoid such a stage.
"It is too hard. It is not a normal day. It is impossible," the 26 year-old told Cyclingnews at the finish. "This stage is not cycling, if it was on a mountain bike then okay. This is a ski pass, not a road for cycling."
He levelled his complaints at organisers RCS Sport, "I would like to give [Angelo] Zomegnan a bike, tell him to come and race this."
Unlike in 2006 when the road stage to Plan de Corones was cancelled, the weather tilted in the riders' favour on Monday. "It is lucky it has not rained so much these days. The road was okay, but it is not road cycling.
"We must change the rules. We do anti-doping controls - what they want - but this type of racing is impossible. And tomorrow [Tuesday] a rest day, and four-hundred kilometres. The team drives tomorrow morning, we stay here tonight."
Zomegnan holds firm
But Race director Zomegnan said the stage was a way to test the riders' limits and put on a great show for the fans. "Have a look around," he said. "This is a countryside that does not exist in the world and cycling races need to exist to show off the countryside. It is too bad there is no sunshine – [imagine] if there was sunshine today."
According to Zomegnan, the stages in the Dolomites are beautiful displays of cycling and serve to show off a sport that has been dragged through the mud. "I think that we need spectacular shows in cycling to pull ourselves out of this mediocrity. Without something spectacular it would be normal, and this is something extra."
He added that the riders had a chance to test the parcours, 5.3 kilometres, which are on sterrato ('gravel'). "All of the riders came here on April 30 - Di Luca, Simoni, Riccò, Bruseghin - and they said it was a new way of testing the athletes' limits and this is an accurate interpretation according to me. And we have to stop here, maybe the limit is here, nothing more."
Zomegnan also responded to comments that the transfers were too long. "Tomorrow [Tuesday] is a rest day and half the distance of a transfer on the last day of the Tour de France," he said with a smile. But the Tour riders were able to take a TGV whereas in the Giro, they face a mountainous four hour run in the back of a team bus.
"The Giro is like this, who wants to do it can come here and who does not can stay at home," Zomegnan concluded.
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