UCI ProTour manager Alain Rumpf has said that there are no plans to rearrange major end of season races on the calendar. This comes despite US media suggestions earlier this week that both the Vuelta and world championships would revert to previous time slots in April and August, and that the Spanish race would be shortened to two weeks.
“There is nothing like that planned at the moment,” said Rumpf to Cyclingnews on Thursday. “I was surprised to see the story, where Lance Armstrong was quoted as saying that would happen. This [moving to April] has been stated a couple of times by the Vuelta themselves, but the UCI has never received an official request for that.
“Frankly, we have never discussed that, even informally, with the Vuelta people or with ASO, who basically now own the Vuelta. It has never been on the agenda at any meeting with them.”
In 1995, both the Vuelta a España and world road race championships changed from their traditional time slots until later in the year. The reason for the shift was the lopsided season which was then in place, with each of the Grand Tours plus the worlds taking place before the end of August.
The old calendar made for a very crowded first half of the year, difficulties in keeping riders motivated post-Worlds, and also an often-poor field for the Vuelta.
Most of the calls for a change in dates focus on this latter point, as many big names continue to avoid the Spanish race or use it simply to prepare for the world championships. But, as Cyclingnews discussed last year, the problem of attendance was already in existence prior to the calendar move.
Rumpf is convinced that the current structure is the right one. “The reason why it is good to have the championships at the end of the season is because it makes the season longer,” he said. “When the Worlds was at the end of August, the season was basically over after the Tour de France…there was just the weekend of the championships and then that was it.
“Moving the Vuelta to September and putting the world championships after that race has been very good for the structure of the calendar and the visibility for the sponsors. Any plans to return the Vuelta to April would need to be studied very carefully; there are lots of races on then, and a clash with another Grand Tour [the Giro, in May].
Despite the absence of most of the Tour de France contenders in recent years, he said the UCI has concluded that the worlds is also in the right time slot. “There was a study conducted last year by the road commission on the dates concerned,” he continued. “It was done at the request of our management committee, and the conclusion of that was that the dates of the championships were good. So there are no short-term plans to make significant changes to the end of season calendar.”