Shorter La Vuelta to begin in Spain after Dutch legs dropped
This year’s Vuelta a España, one of the cycling’s three annual ‘Grand Tours’, will no longer begin in the Netherlands and will be reduced to 18 stages, although a date is still yet to be set for the event.
The race was set to start in Utrecht but organisers Unipublic said it will not be possible to stage the legs in the country due to the “exceptional situation” of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, the event will take off from the Basque Country in Spain and will consist of 18 stages, down from the traditional 21, and across 20 days instead of 23.
The race has only been held with less than 21 stages on one previous occasion in 1985, with an edition featuring 19 stages.
La Vuelta will open with a stage from Irun to Arrate in Eibar and will finish in the capital, Madrid.
The 75th edition of the race will be the first to start with a stage in the Basque Country.
Javier Guillén, director of La Vuelta, said: “Obviously, when you design the race, you hope to never have to make changes of this magnitude, but we have to be sensible with the current situation and we have to accept that it is very difficult to replace an official departure at this late stage, given all the institutional and logistic planning that it involves.”
La Vuelta was originally slated for 14 August to 6 September but the dates will be changed as part of a revised cycling calendar, albeit the new schedule is still yet to be announced by the UCI, the sport’s governing body.
Race organisers were hoping to receive new dates this week after instructing the UCI of plans to reduce the length of the event but the body has pushed back plans to announce a revised calendar until 5 May after significant developments across Europe, notably France’s banning of all mass sporting events until September.
The announcement by French prime minister Édouard Philippe has put further doubt on cycling’s flagship Tour de France taking place in the country after it was postponed and rescheduled until 29 August.
The French sports ministry, however, has intimated that the Tour could still be staged but it will be up to organisers ASO and the UCI to convince the government they can limit attendees and hold the event safely.
In a statement, the UCI said: “The measures recently taken by some European governments concerning the restriction of mass sporting events must, as our Federation once again recently underlined, be taken into consideration when establishing the UCI International Calendar for the recommencement of cycling competitions.”