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COVID-19 pandemic forces Vuelta a España to cancel Portuguese stages

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) on the Vuelta 2019 podium in Madrid (Image credit: Getty Images)

The 2020 Vuelta a España will not visit Portugal this year, race organisers Unipublic have announced. The move has been made due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic rendering the original route impossible to organise.

Stages 15 and 16 were due to pass through northern Portugal, visiting Matosinhos in Porto from Galicia before setting off from Viseu back to the province of Salamanca in central Spain. Alternative host cities have already been found to replace Porto, Matosinhos and Viseu. The new stages will be announced in the coming weeks.

"In a situation as exceptional as the one we are currently living, we have to be flexible and understand these kinds of decisions and changes," said race director Javier Guillén.

"It's a shame not to be able to visit Portugal in 2020, but we don't want this flame to be put out: we will keep this relationship alive, we will maintain and develop the links we have formed, so that we may return to this country that has treated us so well."

Both stages were set to be largely flat and likely to host sprint finishes ahead of the penultimate stage showdown at the summit finish of the Alto de la Covatilla. The change comes after the race was reduced to 18 stages due to the COVID-19-related cancellation of the planned Netherlands start.

The 2020 Vuelta a España is set to be the last race of the revised racing calendar after the UCI announced new dates last week. Overlapping with the Giro d'Italia, Paris-Roubaix and Il Lombardia, the race will run from October 20 to November 8. 

Portugal has hosted the Vuelta in the past, notably including the first-ever foreign start in Lisbon in 1997, which was the last time the race visited Spain's neighbour. The race is still set to visit France, however, with a summit finish on the Col du Tourmalet on stage 9.