Basque Country tour and Clásica saved by final-hour sponsor
Two of Spain’s most important races — the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Clásica San Sebastián — will be held this year after a Spanish bank stepped in to help fund the events.
Event organizers were threatening to cancel the 2012 WorldTour races after a budget shortfall, but the arrival of Spanish bank Sabadell Guipuzcano will assure the emblematic races in Spain’s Basque Country return for the next two years.
“We want to thank Sabadell Guipuzcano for its positive reply to our bid for help in the critical last moment when the races could have disappeared,” said race director Jaime Ugarte in a release. “We have received so many letters of support, calls, messages… we thank everyone.”
Two weeks ago, Ugarte revealed that the organizers were looking at a budget shortfall of more than $300,000 and said that both events were on the verge of being canceled. The UCI had suggested it was willing to help, but the arrival of the Spanish bank assures that the two popular races will have legs through at least the 2013 season.
Ugarte said necessary documentation has been sent to the UCI as well as to teams to assure the weeklong Basque Country tour (April 2-7) and the one-day Clásica (August 14) will remain on the WorldTour calendar.
Both races draw huge crowds, with the Basque Country tour positioned as one of the hardest stage races of the year and Spain’s most important stage race behind the Vuelta a España. Chris Horner won the race in 2010 and finished second to his RadioShack teammate Andreas Klöden last year.
The Clásica has grown into a popular, post-Tour de France stop for many of the top riders on the circuit. The hilly parcours, capped by the Jaizkibel climb, usually produces a wild day of racing. Last year, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) attacked in the late going to solo home the victory.