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Vuelta under pressure

By Sue George

The UCI sent a letter to Victor Cordero, the General Director of the group that organises the Vuelta a España, warning him of potential changes to the ProTour calendar that could shorten the Spanish Grand Tour and force it to share the September calendar with the Tour of Germany. Extracts from the UCI's letter were published in El Pais on Tuesday, according to L'Equipe. The letter was signed by Alan Rumpf, the UCI's ProTour Committee co-ordinator.

Cordero called the letter "surprising," according to L'Equipe. Rumpf first wrote of the possibility of moving the Tour of Germany to September; the Vuelta's duration would be shortened from its usual three weeks to enable both races to share calendar time in September.

The letter said: "You know, dear Victor, that the [ProTour] committee has reflected upon calendar modifications for the 2009 season and changes could take effect as early as 2008. And you know the interest in the Tour of Germany moving to September, like the Vuelta. This would satisfy the wishes of some teams to participate in the Tour of Poland, too. You know also, Victor, that the three week duration of the Vuelta is under debate at the moment." Rumpf is referring to demands for shortening the Grand Tours in order to make them less physically demanding. Some believe shortening Grand Tours would reduce riders' incentives to dope.

Cordero responded to the letter and defended the Vuelta to the AFP: "We are going to answer the UCI, but will not improvise an answer on short notice. While the UCI may have interests that threaten the Vuelta, the race is part of cycling's heritage, and an entire country stands behind it."

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.