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There were more grumbles at the Vuelta a España after chaotic weather conditions forced organizers to neutralize the final two kilometers of Sunday’s climbing finale.
This time? Mud. Lots of it.
So much mud and gravel washed onto the narrow and recently paved finishing straight on the final climb up the deceptively steep Cat. 2 Alto de Caravaca de la Cruz that organizers were forced to alter the finish.
Race vehicles were getting stuck in the mud as well as kicking up mud and gravel onto the road surfaces hours before the peloton was set to arrive.
Speaking to the Spanish daily AS, one Vuelta official said the decision was taken to protect the safety of the riders.
“They called us from the finish line and said it was very muddy, and we decided to do it for the safety of the riders,” Kiko García told AS. “It was our decision, and it appears the teams are thankful for it. The spot where the times were taken was just after a sector with ramps at 20 percent in order to avoid the dangers of a descent.”
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Because the road was so narrow and looked to be so slippery, organizers didn’t want put riders at risk.
Vuelta race leader Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) said the decision was correct.
“It was the right call because the wheels were really sliding on the curves,” Kuss said. “The asphalt wasn’t very good. And on these curves full of mud, someone would have crashed if there were five or 10 riders coming in for the sprint to win the stage.”
The decision to alter the GC finish line was made with about 30km to go.
Initially, the time was to be taken at 2.5km to go, and it was moved to just over 2000m to go to allow riders to contest a steeper section. TV images captured race director Fernando Escartín waving a flag as riders rode over a narrow gate.
Just as was the case in Barcelona, race organizers were blighted by uncharacteristically bad weather in a country where there were heat waves in advance of the Vuelta.
— NBC Sports Cycling (@NBCSCycling) September 3, 2023
The finish line order still stood, in terms of stage places, with Lennard Kämna taking the win out of a breakaway.
After the main peloton sprinted to the newly designated GC point, many pedaled in at their own pace.
It appeared most fans waiting alongside the road in wet and windy conditions cheered on the riders, but some on social media criticized the Vuelta organization for botching the decision.
Overnight, Spanish authorities issued a nationwide extreme weather warning, with forecasts of heavy rain, winds, and dropping temperatures.
By the time the peloton arrived to the finishing climb, weather conditions had improved, and it appeared crews had cleared away the worse of the muddy conditions.
It appeared it might have been possible for the bunch to have raced up the climb, but race officials didn’t want to take a chance.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) attacked as the main GC group approached the improvised finish line, and snatched back a few seconds.
“I am happy we finished and it was not the finish completely on the top, because it was quite tricky with the corners and the mud on the road,” Roglič said.
After that, riders soft-pedaled to the top and did a U-turn.
Everyone was in a hurry to get to the airport for a flight to northern Spain for Monday’s rest day.