Vuelta a Espana director Javier Gullén has told Cyclingnews that the Spanish Grand Tour is to emulate the Tour de France and will hold a one-day women’s race prior to last stage in Madrid next September.
The women’s event will be held on the Paseo de la Castellana boulevard in central Madrid, which will return to hosting the last stage of the Vuelta in 2015 after this year's finish in Santiago de Compostela.
Tour de France organiser ASO hosted a first, and enormously successful, edition of La Course on the Champs Elysées this summer, prior to the arrival of the Tour de France. Now the Vuelta, also part of ASO's stable of races, is to follow suit. On Monday the organisers of the Tour of California announced a three-day women's race would run during the men's race in May 2015.
“We’re working on the details and currently putting it all together,” Vuelta race director Javier Guillén confirmed to Cyclingnews. “It would be on the last day, in Madrid.”
“It would be very similar to La Course, and have the same objective: to help boost women’s cycling and try to give it the same kind of high-profile it gained in France on the last day of the men’s Tour.”
Guillén would not be drawn on whether the last stage of the 2015 Vuelta would be again be an evening race, although he agreed that “It worked very well in Galicia.” He added that other areas, such as whether La Vuelta would follow the Tour’s example and offer financial parity in prize money for the women’s La Course and men's final stage of the Vuelta, had yet to be finalised. “The important thing is that it’s happening,” he said.
With races in men’s cycling being cancelled in significant numbers in Spain because of the economic crisis, women’s cycling has also suffered from a drop in sponsorship in recent years. Whilst there has never been a women’s Vuelta a Espana, there used to be a women’s World Cup race in Valladolid. It was last held in 2011 before being cancelled because of lack of funds.
With the notable exception of the longstanding Bira stage race in the Basque Country - won this summer by world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, Spanish women’s cycling currently has few top events on the calendar. The Vuelta’s La Course race may help change that.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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