2016 Giro d’Italia – Stage Nineteen. Russian cyclist Ilnur Zakarin of Katusha crashes during the Colle dell’Agnello downhill. GETTY IMAGES

Giro d’Italia has scrapped controversial “best downhiller” prizes after fears it could lead to fatal accidents during the three-week race.

Race organisers RCS faced criticism from riders and officials after announcing cash prizes for the best times on some downhill sections of several stages during the May 5-28 race.

Two days before the 100th edition of the event starts in Sardinia, RCS said Wednesday: “Race organisers have decided to eliminate all such classifications and prize money as per the race regulations, leaving the timekeeping of the descents purely as statistical data for the fans.”

The last fatality on the Giro, which begins Friday with a 206km opening stage from Alghero to Olbia, was in 2011 when Wouter Weylandt crashed on the descent of the Passo del Bocco.

The dangers facing cyclists came into sharp focus last month with the death while out training on the road of popular Italian Michele Scarponi.

And only days ago American Chad Young, 21, died from head injuries following a smash on a descent of the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico.

International Cycling Union (UCI) senior official Tom van Damme said the idea of prizes for speeding downhill was “unacceptable” and called for it to be binned.

Riders participating in Italy were also against the initiative, Trek rider Jasper Stuyven saying on Twitter: “Seriously?! If this (is) true you should be ashamed, aren’t there already enough crashes? Clearly you only care about sensation.”

Confirming their U-turn, organisers added: “Comments have been made suggesting that this initiative could be potentially misunderstood and generate behaviour not in line with the principles of safety.

“The race organisers have taken these comments on board and changed an initiative that could be misinterpreted.” – Agence France-Presse

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