Shortened Vuelta set for Basque Country start

MADRID (AFP) – This year’s Vuelta will begin in the Basque Country after cancelling its planned start in the Netherlands, organisers of one of cycling’s Grand Tours announced on Wednesday.

The Vuelta, or Tour of Spain, was scheduled to begin on August 14 in Utrecht and finish on September 6 in Madrid but the race has been postponed to a date as yet unknown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It will also now depart from Irun in Spain and include 18 stages, three less than originally scheduled after the removal of the Dutch legs.

A statement from the race organisers said the decision has been “not to replace the first three stages, which were going to cover the Dutch regions of Utrecht and North Brabant before starting the Spanish round with the Irun-Alto de Arrasate stage (in Eibar)”.

“This has been communicated to the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) so the body responsible for the regulation of cycling can work on the re-organisation of the calendar with a 20-day Tour and not 23 as initially planned,” the statement added.

File photo shows Simon Yates in action during the the Vuelta. PHOTO: AP

It will be the first time the Vuelta features fewer than 21 stages since a 19-stage race was completed in 1985.

“It is obvious that when you design the race, you do not expect not to have to make changes of this magnitude, but we have to be sensitive with the current situation and we have to assume that it is very difficult to substitute an official start at this point for all the planning and logistics involved,” said the Director of La Vuelta Javier Guillen.

The Vuelta organisers had earlier issued a press release saying they had been “forced” to take out the start in the Netherlands.

“La Vuelta 20 will not take off from the Netherlands,” the organisers said. “Due to the exceptional situation caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the organising committee of La Vuelta Holanda has been forced to cancel the official departure of the race from the Dutch regions of Utrecht and North Brabant.”

The 2021 start has already been allocated to Burgos in northern Spain. Organisers said they hoped to start the 2022 race in the Netherlands instead.

Director of the organising committee of La Vuelta Holanda Martin van Hulsteijn said that the later start for the race presented obstacles that could not be overcome.

“Moving three stages, on three days, through 34 municipalities with start and finish places in various places turned out to be a bridge too far,” he was quoted as saying in the Vuelta statement.

“For example, we did not have all the needed infrastructures at our disposal. In addition, a lot of road works were carried out around the 34 participating municipalities in the autumn.

“The impact would be too great. Even if you leave the desirability and uncertainty in Corona time out of the discussion”.