Did the Vuelta's date change hurt the race?

By Hernan Alvarez

In 1995, the Vuelta a España organizers and the UCI decided to change the dates for the Spanish race from April and May to the current August-September spot in order to attract a higher quality, more international field. France's Laurent Jalabert was the first to win the late summer edition, and for a time, the change brought the race higher prestige. But in recent years the quality of the race has been slipping. Opinions vary as to what is the cause and how it can be fixed.

The dispute about whether to race the Vuelta in the spring or the summer is on the table of Spanish cycling, and there are many opinions. Some are in favor of things remaining as they are now with the Vuelta in September and others think of changing in back to April. Cyclingnews reached the race director, one rider and two journalists to find out what they think about this issue.

The Vuelta a España's current director Victor Cordero is of the side which favors the spring timing for the race. "I'm convinced that it's better in the spring," said Cordero. However, he explained, the reasons for moving the date in the mid 90s were valid. "Taking into account a global vision, maybe it's better for the rest of cycling to have a longer season, as it is now.

"The original objective of moving the Vuelta to September was that the teams would then have more than three to four months to perform, and could race from April to September. Previously [the season] was from April to the end of July with the Tour de France. For the Vuelta, the April-May dates were better, no doubt about it."

Veteran cycling journalist Chema Rodriguez also gave his opinion about this matter. Rodriguez is against bringing the Vuelta back to April. "I lived the controversy about the date changes intensely as a director of a specialized media [Spain's Meta 2Mil magazine]. In fact, from the very beginning I was one of the few journalists who was in favor of the change from April to September. And I remember that little by little, as years went by, most of the Spanish media were changing their minds and recognizing the improvements that the change made," said Rodriguez.

The main reason for the 1995 shift was the absence of the great names on the Spanish roads. "When the former owners of the race accepted the proposal of the then president of the UCI, Hein Verbruggen, they didn't do it in a capricious way," continued the journalist. "The Vuelta in April couldn't attract the great international stars. After winning his first Tour [de France] in 1991 Miguel Indurain never raced the Vuelta in April again. And the man from Navarra wasn't the only one absent among the great stage race riders." A major factor for the race is the weather. "The climate was another factor to consider: Spain is much rawer in April than it is in September when there are still people enjoying their [summer] holidays," said Rodriguez.

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