Spain has given its professional racing scene a much-needed boost with the creation of its first season-long classification competition, the Copa de España.
After what was reportedly more than 10 years of discussions, the Copa de España was presented earlier this week at the seat of Spain’s Sports Council, its rough equivalent to a Ministry for Sport.
The format will be similar to the Coupe de France or Italy’s Ciclismo Cup or to the Copa de España for U23 teams - the latter already in existence and will be unaffected by the new competition. As with the Ciclismo Cup, stage and one-day races are both included in the event - unlike the Coupe de France, which only includes single-day events.
As Spanish Cycling Federation President José Luis Lopez Cerron told Cyclingnews, there has never been a season-long competition of this kind in Spain, at least in the last 40 years, and it fills a much-needed gap in the country's professional cycling panorama.
“It’s important because we’ve got similar season-long awards for women’s cycling, cyclo-cross and so on, but professional cycling was missing from that,” López Cerron said.
“It was not a straightforward process to create, because there are a lot of interested parties, from the teams through to the race organisers through to various organisations. But we didn’t want to let another year go by without doing it.
“We’ve copied the format of the Belgian, Italian and French Cups and we may have to change a few things in the future.”
Most notably, there is the question of whether, as with the Italian Ciclismo Cup, a victory in the series brings an automatic wildcard invitation to the Vuelta a España.
“But at least it’s up and running, and that’s what we wanted. And we’re pleased, too, that so many races have come on board,” López Cerron added.
Only three races of Spain’s 22 professional-level events of 2019 have opted not to form part of the series, all of them early season: the one-day Clásica de Almeria, the two-day Vuelta a Murcia and the five-day Vuelta a Andalucia/Ruta del Sol. Other than that, all of Spain’s professional races, from the Vuelta a España to the one-day Trofeo Ses Salines, Campos, Porreres, Felanitx, which opens the Mallorca Challenge - Spain’s first event of the season - on Thursday. The Spanish National Championships will also form part of the series.
“It’s going to look a bit odd that they’re not in the series, but it’s early days yet, they might yet want to come on board,” López Cerron said to Cyclingnews.
The competition will be run by Spain’s Professional Cycling Council (CCP) and under the auspices of the Spanish Cycling Federation.
The winner of the individual series, which will also have an U-23 category, either has to be a Spanish professional or racing with a Spanish team, and points awarded will be the same for all races, regardless of category. There will also be a team award.
“We felt it was only fair that given not all teams have the same access to the same events, that the points were identical across the board,” said Lopez Cerron. “Otherwise, if you gave a massive amount of points to the Vuelta a España winner, say, then it would be overly prejudicial against Continental teams that can’t take part in that race.”
Had the series been held last year, the winner would have been Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and the Spanish veteran and current World Road Champion will likely be in the running once again this year.
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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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