Some of the riders in this year’s Vuelta a España had a shock on Thursday morning when they studied the route of Saturday’s opening team time trial and realised that sections of the 7.4km seafront course are on a sand and dirt covered bike path, with the finish on the Levante beach in Marbella apparently reached via a raised platform.
The official race manual showed the 7.4km course starting on a narrow sea wall in Puerto Banus and hugging the seafront but does not show the conditions of the surface or the platform finish on the beach.
Chris Froome was one of the first to raise concerns about safety, after realising that he and his teammates will be expected to race at close to 50km/h on the dirt track. The Tour de France winner posted a collage of photos from Team Sky’s morning recon ride, showing how wheels struggled on the dirt surface and revealing a wooden decking section.
Froome also reached out to the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés representitives for the Vuelta Iker Camaño Jose Luis De Santos, asking: “Any thoughts?”
Other riders were not so diplomatic, with Australian Movistar rider Rory Sutherland tweeting several photos of the dirt and sandy surface, asking: “is the @UCI_cycling serious that this is acceptable? Union???”
Froome’s teammate Nicolas Roche also vented his disappointment about the course by tweeting a photo of his rear wheel carving a groove into the dirt. He asked: “Vuelta ttt!!!! Are you joking????”
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) tweeted a photo of a long section of rubber mats that also seemed part of the team time trial course.
Despite the questons about the road surface and safety, the race organisers seem happy with the planned route. The official Vuelta Twitter account posted a photo of the narrow finish platform, writing: “Look at the finish line of the first stage of #LV2015 in Playa de Levante! Everything is ready!”