Guillén seeing only positives in Vuelta a España’s late-season slot

Away from the Tour and main block of classics, Vuelta could see strong start sheets and be able to mimic safety protocol proven successful elsewhere.

Photo: Getty Images

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On first glance at the new 2020 WorldTour race schedule, you may think the Vuelta a España has been dealt a bad hand with its late-fall calendar slot. Race director Javier Guillén isn’t seeing it that way.

This year’s Vuelta is set to roll out of northern town Irún on October 20, two months and several hundred-kilometers adrift from its originally-anticipated start in the Netherlands, August 14. However, being a full month after the Tour de France and away from the heaviest traffic of the busy October classics block, the October-November window packs in the positives.

“Seen in perspective, if we look at it together, I think that La Vuelta fits the calendar very well,” Guillén told Marca. “We are happy with the circumstances”

Guillén accepts that the Tour takes priority in the cycling calendar. When the French race had to be shifted back to late-August so as to give it the hero slot in the season, the Vuelta couldn’t argue in being forced to find race dates later in the year.

With it being rumored from an early point that the Vuelta’s planned ‘Dutch start’ would be scrapped if it couldn’t take place in August, and Giro d’Italia organizers remaining bullish about retaining its 21-day format, the UCI’s positioning of the Vuelta at the end of the year worked out well for Guillén.

“The Tour is satisfied because they were the first dates that were specified, and we must thank them for the speed they had in confirming,” Guillén said Monday. “From there, you have to call the rest of the races. The Giro asserted that he wanted the four weekends and they have them. We wanted them too but at least we have the date we want.”

“There must be satisfaction because, if you realize it, November was a month enabled to make races and nobody has taken it,” Guillén said. “Nobody wanted to be there and nobody is, that is positive.”

While the Giro was granted its full four weeks, it has also found itself placed in opposition to the Ardennes and Flemish classics, as well as overlapping the Vuelta by six days. The Vuelta also has its share of clashes to contend with, notably Paris-Roubaix on October 25 and Il Lombardia the weekend afterward, but it gets off lightly in comparison to its Italian rival.

By being placed a full four weeks after the Tour, the Vuelta could also become the go-to companion to La Grande Boucle in grand tour riders’ schedules. Teams have already suggested that they would likely stack their strongest stage racers into the Tour de France rather than saving them for the Giro d’Italia. With it being almost impossible to double up the Tour with the Giro, which follows just a fortnight later, the Vuelta becomes the place for grand tour riders to get their second stab at success over three weeks.

The men’s calendar. Image: UCI

Guillén will be taking careful notes as he watches the season unfold before his race. There is, of course, the possibility that a new coronavirus outbreak in the coming months leads to a total shuttering of the Vuelta before it has even started. However, in the absence of such a disaster, Guillén will be able to implement best practices around sanitary and safety from races preceding his.

“There are many plans from ASO, we are working on our own [health] measures,” Guillén said. “We have some experience of what has been done in Paris-Nice. We want to see how the Tour and the Giro, which go before, do it first.”

Guillén has already spoken of only holding his race behind closed doors as a very last resort, and again suggested it’s a situation he’d rather avoid, citing the proven benefits of the Vuelta on the Spanish tourist industry.

“We must first see how we got to October,” he said. “Now I see a halo of hope and hope but, in addition to the public, there is also tourism promotion and, on the other hand, La Vuelta boosts the economy in any case because there are many people inside who come to the cities.”

While Guillén and his organizing team confirmed this weekend that the two stages that were due to dip into neighboring Portugal would be re-routed to remain entirely in Spain, no further adjustments are expected to be made to the Vuelta’s parcours.

For now, for Guillén, es bueno. 

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