Long a favourite training venue for some of the sport’s leading stars, the Canary Islands look set to the welcome the Vuelta a España within the next two or three years. According to reports, the race could feature as many as four stages in the Canaries, including a summit finish on the Teide volcano on the island of Tenerife.
Race director-general Javier Guillén met with Paulino Rivero, president of the government of the Canary Islands, on Tuesday to discuss preliminary plans for the Vuelta’s first stages on the islands since 1988. Initial indications are that there would be two mountain stages on the islands, one a summit finish at more than 2300m on Mt Teide, with the other on the island of Gran Canaria and including the fearsome climb of the Pico de los Nieves (1930m).
Some reports have indicated that the stages might take place as soon as next year, but Guillén said in a radio interview during his visit to the islands that a more likely date is in 2013 or 2014. He also revealed that the race won’t head from mainland Spain to the Canary Islands and then back again because of the logistical problems involved. This would suggest that the race will either start or finish on the islands.
“For the Vuelta it is important to do new things,” said Guillén. “The Vuelta’s profile has risen in the last few years because it has been innovative and innovation means looking at new places for the race to go to or returning to places that it’s not been to for a long time such as the Canary Islands.
“It’s also important that the iconic places on the Canary Islands feature on the Vuelta route, but we don’t want to do that in just a fleeting way. We want to make a real commitment and although we’re just in the initial phases at the moment we want to explore all the best things that the islands have to offer.”
The Vuelta last visited the islands in 1988, when it kicked off with a prologue on Tenerife between Santa Cruz and San Andrés. The next day’s stage was a circuit of the island, which was followed by a team time trial on Gran Canaria.
Meanwhile, it looks increasingly likely that the 2012 edition of the Vuelta will start right over on the other side of Spain in the Navarran city of Pamplona, home to Miguel Indurain and the Movistar team. According to El Diario de Navarra, negotiations between race organizers Unipublic and the Navarran government are at an advanced stage and a deal is expected to be signed before this year’s race starts in Benidorm on August 20.
Pamplona is set to host the start and finish of the 2012 race’s opening stage, although it has yet to be decided whether this will be a time trial or a road stage. The second stage will also start in the city.
The city last welcomed the race in 1994, when Laurent Jalabert won the sprint that decided the stage. But the visit is better remembered for the burning of six race motorbikes. Back in 1968, the stage into Pamplona had to be suspended after Basque separatist group ETA exploded a bomb on the Puerto de Urbasa.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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