Vuelta boss says the race will stay vertical moving forward

The Spanish grand tour has become unfriendly to sprinters because of the challenging profile

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MADRID (VN) — Despite complaints from sprinters that the Vuelta a España is too mountainous, race director Javier Guillén said the Spanish tour will keep its focus on the vertical.

This year’s Vuelta included 11 uphill finales, and even of stages that looked to have a sprint finale, nearly all of them had some sort of climb late in the stage to spice things up. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) was one of many sprinters who were exasperated by the Vuelta profile, and came away empty.

Pure sprinters stayed away from the Vuelta this year in droves, but that doesn’t bother Guillén.

“It’s true, there are not a lot of opportunities for the sprinters,” Guillén told VeloNews. “It’s not to say we do not like those types of stages, but the Vuelta has its own style and personality. The fans like the type of race we are making, with mountains, with the explosive uphill finales.”

The Vuelta has been pushing toward a more challenging, diverse route over the past several editions, and the results have been promising.

The Spanish grand tour once featured a string of long, flat, boring stages, sometimes held on four-lane highways, which went from one major city to another.

That started to change over the past three or four editions of the Vuelta, as the race moved onto the smaller back roads of “España profunda,” or deep Spain, and added more climbs and punchy, explosive hilltop finishes.

Guillén said the TV ratings have inched up as a result, and the race plans to stick to its newfound formula.

“I am not going to lie to anyone, we like the mountaintop finales,” Guillén continued. “We like the explosive hilltop finales, and we will continue to add them in the route, including new climbs which we are always searching for.”

Overall, Guillén said he was satisfied with the 68th Vuelta that went down to the wire, with a nail-biting finale on the Anglirú to decide the winner.

“It was a very good Vuelta, with emotion from the first to the last day. Every stage was interesting. With the last stage going into the Anglirú, the gaps were small, just three seconds from first to second,” he said. “We had good numbers for our ratings. We are satisfied. The stage to Anglirú had good audience. We built on the success of last year. It’s important that the public gets excited about the Vuelta.”

There was some chatter that Chris Horner’s victory at nearly 42 years old was not ideal for the image of the Vuelta, that it would be more in the interest of the race to have a better-known or younger rider with promise to win the red jersey.

Guillén remained cautious in his comments about Horner.

“The road decides who wins. The analysis will come later,” he said. “The only thing we want is that the best rider wins, that it’s a good fight, and that we do not have any problems with the victories. Whoever wins deserves our congratulations.”

Next year’s Vuelta will start in Cadiz, in Spain’s Andalusia region, with several cities and towns taking part in the opening weekend, including Jerez de la Frontera.

Details of the 2014 route will be released in January, but Guillén makes it clear that it will be more of the same for the Vuelta. That means it will be a climber’s paradise, and purgatory for any sprinters who bother to show up.

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