Oct 23 (Reuters) - Competitors for the Giro d'Italia lined up for the 19th stage as planned on Friday but then hopped on team buses after organisers agreed to shorten the route due to bad weather.
The Professional Cyclists' Association (CPA) confirmed the decision on Twitter after riders were greeted with rain in Morbegno, the planned starting-point for the marathon 258-kilometre stage.
"Thanks to the jury and Giro organisers for listening to the CPA's request," it said.
"The health is the priority, especially in this COVID period. Reducing today's stage will not diminish the show but will allow the immune defences of the riders not to be put at greater risk."
The riders cycled a few kilometres from the start before getting onto team buses.
"Considering the weather situation the race has been neutralized at Kilometre eight," said the Giro's official Twitter feed. "Updates will follow on the precise location of the restart."
The Gazzetta dello Sport said the new start could be in Como which would leave around 180 kilometres until the end of the stage at Asti.
The riders had already endured a brutal stage on Thursday which included the fearsome Stelvio climb followed by a freezing descent through snowfields. Dutchman Wilco Kelderman leads the race after overhauling Joao Almeida on Thursday.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru and Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis)
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