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Length of the Vuelta a España up for discussion

By:
Peter Cossins
Published:
November 12, 2013, 15:35,
Updated:
November 12, 2013, 15:34
Edition:
First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Race:
Vuelta a España
Vuelta a España director Javier Guillén

Vuelta a España director Javier Guillén

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Race director outlines his vision for the future of Spain’s Grand Tour

Vuelta a España director Javier Guillén has revealed his vision for the Spanish Grand Tour, revealing he is ready to discuss cutting the length of the race as long as there is some significant payoff, primarily a stronger field on the start-line.

Race organisers Unipublic, which is about to become a wholly-owned affiliate of Tour de France owners ASO, has long contemplated changes to the format of the Vuelta in order to boost its popularity among riders, fans and TV viewers. Some innovations have been made over the past two decades, notably a switch from an April to August start date and the introduction of a red leader’s jersey that’s more in tune with the colours of Spain’s national teams in most other sports.

Guillén spoke at a forum organised by Spanish sports newspaper AS, where he also confirmed that all the anti-doping tests done during this year’s race were negative. He affirmed there is still more to be done, especially in Spain, where top-level cycling is in decline but said the Vuelta can be used much more as a promotional tourism tool for Spain.

A two-week Vuelta?

Speaking about the possibility of these changes including the introduction of a third rest day or even a cut to the three-week duration of the Vuelta and the Giro d’Italia, so that they run for two weeks or a little more, Guillén stated: “That is a debate that is certainly going to take place.”

Guillén continued: “I can see the third rest day happening if there is a large transfer, like there is in the [2014] Giro, which will start in Ireland. A cut from a three-week race must be done for the right reasons and would be accepted if a new calendar was brought in and other races were in agreement. But we would have to get something back in return. If this meant that we could count on Froome, Contador or Purito [Rodríguez] always riding, it would be welcome.”

The Vuelta director said that, “the route of the race would continue to be innovative”. He added that Unipublic will endeavour to draw on Spain’s geographical riches and will stick to its preference for short stages and “explosive finishes, which have given us most of our personality”.

Echoing the line long taken by ASO with the Tour de France, Guillén insisted the Vuelta is much more than a sporting event. It is, he suggested, a tool that can promote Spain and Spanish culture.

“We have to introduce the country’s geography and gastronomy as part of our offering. We have to be a great televisual spectacular that takes place on public roads and converts the race into a huge festival, focused on starts and finishes.”

He revealed Unipublic is already working with Spanish television network TVE on boosting the race’s televisual impact. “This is how the Tour works, and it achieves splendid results. Based on the television images you see, anyone would say there’s nothing ugly to see in France.”

Guillén lamented the current state of Spanish cycling, but insisted a rise in TV viewing figures for the Vuelta and the advent in 2015 of the new team backed by Spanish F1 star Fernando Alonso were signs of a change for the better. “The stronger the Vuelta is, the stronger Spanish cycling will be,” he concluded.

optica More than 1 year ago
Hope that they keep it at 3 weeks otherwise it won't seem like a Grand Tour anymore.
hawkhead More than 1 year ago
It will seem more of a grand tour if they have double stages, time bonuses , short time trials,less transition stages less sprints even shorter stages let them really race that goes for all tours
trueblue More than 1 year ago
3 weeks is what makes a GT different. Fatigue levels vary and only the strongest survive "well"
Juan Geovany Carrazana More than 1 year ago
The Vuelta has been the most exiting race in the past 3 seasons
Cance > TheRest More than 1 year ago
Please do not cut the length of the Vuelta. It's like the highlight of the season along with the classics
martinvickers More than 1 year ago
3 weeks is not just longer than other stage races - it's WILDLY longer than all but a small handful (portugal), and the trncd is for shorter and sharper - a race with three weekends - i.e, 17 days would still be much longer, and one could make the first weekend a real festival. Hell, bring back the tradition of two stages in a day, and you needn't even lose any stages.
agostinho More than 1 year ago
It's interesting you mention the Tour of Portugal, because until the 90s it used to be a 3 week stage race. This cut of the length of Tour of Portugal, even if it made sense (the country is much smaller than France, Italy, Spain, or even California), didn't increase the level of the field and the quality of the show. The problem is the competition. For Portugal it's the Vuelta a Burgos and the Tour of Denmark. For Spain it's the other grand tours and the stage races in America. It's impossible to guarantee the best field (unless you organise a criterium in Japan and you pay or you are the Tour de France). I like the Vuelta as it is today and will love it forever (during the EPO years it was my favourite GT, I know it's strange, but I started watching cycling in 2000 and the Tour was very boring, always the same winner - I forgot the name of the guy, Pat McQuaid told me to forget his name), with or without Froome and Contador. What I want to say is that it's not going to be better with less days, even if I like your idea of a return of two stages in one day.
montani3semper More than 1 year ago
Vuelta a Colombia is a two weeks gig, although only UCI 2.2; I don't know why! Do you? (It's got HC 'hills')
Volderke More than 1 year ago
Completely agree with shortening the race to the first weekend + 2 weeks. You won't see riders dropping out preparing for the worlds, and there is no good reason to have so many mountain top finishes. So what if it wouldn't be a grand tour anymore, so what if the fatigue levels will not play a sharp role. What matters is an exciting race and a good field. If the race is two weeks, a lot of Tour contenders will want to race it, even though they feel a little tired.
Kurt Erickson More than 1 year ago
I believe this is an excellent idea. It should increase the level of racing that does occur and decrease the need for PEDs to 'survive' a 3 week GT. My compliments to Mr. Guillien. Honestly, he could take it a step further and add in a women's version to run cosecutively. That would increase the overall number of days we get to see racing in Spain, BTW...
ceramiccyclist More than 1 year ago
A question worth asking, is that now ASO own the Vuelta, are they attempting to devalue it deliberately in order to protect the supremacy of the Tour de France or is this a genuine effort to attract a top class field to a race which would be less likely to suffer from the wide scale abandons we normally see?
nuvolablu More than 1 year ago
If they do this I'll stop watch cycling
wrinklyvet More than 1 year ago
You have to be joking! What nonsense.
mike73nz More than 1 year ago
Love to see a two week race and then see nuvulablu comment on the knittingnews.com website. 2 weeks might happen, i think it should as its the end of the season and better riders would consider it. One things for certain, no one will stop watching cycling because of it.
cristian_dalben More than 1 year ago
vuelta is the most innovative gt race. In the last year it's been the most exciting race. i'm in italy following cycling since 35 years and i'm forty now.