Vuelta a España director Javier Guillén could follow the Tour de France’s lead and create a women’s race in 2015.
Earlier this month, Tour organisers the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) announced that they would host a single-day women’s race on the last day of the Tour de France, which would finish along the Champs-Élysées ahead of the men’s race. With the television set-up already in place, the race will also be broadcast on Eurosport. The idea has been widely lauded by the women’s peloton, with former world time trial champion Emma Pooley calling it “a great platform” for women’s cycling.
It seems that Vuelta a España organisers Unipublic (who is part owned by ASO) has noted the positive reception the race has received. “Like the Tour will host a women’s race on the final day in Paris, the Vuelta wants to do so next year,” Guillén told Spanish paper AS.
The time trial finish in Santiago de Compostela prevents the organisers from implementing it this season. However this will allow them to have more than a year learn from their French counterparts. The hope is that the one-day races can be a stepping stone to a much stronger women’s calendar, with Grand Tours that match the quality of the men’s events.
Currently there is only one Grand Rour on the women's calendar: the Giro Rosa, in Italy. However, that has struggled from chronic lack of funding and could only continue last year when a new organiser stepped in.
While there was a Tour de France Feminine in the past, there is yet to be a women’s Grand Tour in Spain. In fact, there are only two races in Spain on the women’s calendar. The biggest of these is the 2.1 classified Emakumeen Euskal Bira, won last year by Emma Johansson. This proposed one-day race at the Vuelta could provide a huge boost to women’s cycling in the country.
Men’s race, 2015 and beyond
With all the route details known about this year’s race, speculation turned to what might be of future editions. However Guillén remained mum on the exact location of next year’s opening stages.
“The start for 2015 is closed, but I can’t announce where,” he said. He did, however, concede that “it will be in Spain.”
Unlike its counterparts, the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, the Vuelta has been reluctant to leave its shores for a “gran salida”. It has only begun out side of the country on two occasions, since 1955, (1997, Lisbon and 2009, Assen), compared to the Tour’s 21 foreign starts. As the race continues to increase in popularity, organisers are looking to expand their horizons.
Nimes mayor, Jean-Paul Fournier wrote on his twitter page last week that the 2017 edition would start in his city. The race has often dipped into France, to take on a number of its Pyrenean climbs but never started in France.
Guillén confirmed an interest in the French city and also a desire to return to Portugal, in 2016. “Contact with Porto and Nimes has happened,” he explained. “There is nothing more I can say, there is a real desire to start in Nimes in 2017. We had a meeting and there was a good feeling. With regards to Porto, we are in a phase of study and of contacts, but we really want to make something.”
This year’s race will start in Jerez de la Frontera on August 23, before finishing with a 10km time trial in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia.