Is the ASO saving the Volta a Catalunya?

Rumours abound regarding possible deal between Tour organiser and Spain's oldest stage race

The Volta a Catalunya's longstanding director Ruben Perís has refused to comment on reports in El País on Tuesday that the Tour de France organiser ASO is now handling the television and commercial rights to the race.

For the last few years, the Volta, owned by a Barcelona-based sports and cycling club, the UE Sants, has largely survived thanks to economic support from the Catalan government – and there have been repeated questions raised in the media recently over the race's chances of staying afloat financially in the long-term.

However, the rumour mill has been humming with stories that the ASO may have closed some sort of a deal with the 106-year-old event, the oldest stage race in Spain. Last week El Periódico, one of Catalonia's leading dailies, headlined one article 'The Tour saves the Volta.'

The main element of these stories is that Carrefour, a company which is already involved in backing several ASO-owned races, is set to appear as the Volta’s new main sponsor when the race starts on Monday. On top of that they point to the apparently unwarranted presence of various members of the ASO's personnel in the Volta's presentation last week. There are also unconfirmed reports that Ruben Perís was in a meeting in Paris with the ASO in late January, and the fact that the Tour de France already runs Spain's biggest race, the Vuelta a España.

However the man at the centre of it all, Ruben Peris is refusing to reveal what the reality of the race's situation is. "I have nothing to say, and even less when there's only four days to go to the start of the Volta," he told Cyclingnews on Tuesday.

The Volta is far from being the only WorldTour race of Spain's four to have experienced economic difficulties in the last few years. The Vuelta al País Vasco and Clásica San Sebastián came close to suspension in 2012 and many smaller events have been cancelled or disappeared.

The Volta starts its 2017 edition next Monday with a repeat of the 2016 out-and-back stage to the coastal resort of Calella. Chris Froome (Team Sky), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) headline a traditionally strong line-up.

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