Vuelta a Espana

Formigal replaces Tourmalet as French COVID-19 rules force Vuelta a España to alter stage 6 finale

Race officials will reroute the stage within Spain after French officials prevented entry of the Vuelta a España.

The Vuelta a España will not enter French territory for Sunday’s decisive summit finale on the Col du Tourmalet in the French Pyrénées. Instead, race officials confirmed Thursday the stage will remain within Spanish territory, and finish at the Formigal ski area.

Initially, there was concern that autumn snowfall could block the road up the Tourmalet summit, which tops out at 2,114m elevation. Now, a worsening second wave of coronavirus has derailed the stage after French authorities issued new health restrictions that forced the Vuelta to reroute the stage.

“Unfortunately the stage that was planned for Sunday and the Col du Tourmalet won’t happen,” said Vuelta director Javier Guillén. “Given the state of alarm in France and the restrictions that that brings, we cannot cross into French territory, we cannot hold the race. It’s similar to what happened at the Giro d’Italia and its stage that was rerouted. The Vuelta does not stop. We’ll have a great stage, with three climbs, and it’s a stage that fits perfectly within what was expected that day.”

Officials confirmed the rerouted 146km stage start will remain in Biescas. Instead of crossing into France, it will stay on Spanish roads, and tackle a third-category and a second-category climb before looping through Biescas again ahead of the final climb to Formigal, a popular ski area high in the Spanish Pyrénées.

That means it will be a 27km continuous climb to the summit, though not very steep, with an average grade of 4.6 percent in the final 14km.

The 136km stage 6 was scheduled to start in Spanish territory at Biescas on the Spanish side of the Pyrénées, and climb the Cat. 1 Col du Portalet and the hors-categorie Col du Aubisque before tackling the hors-categorie summit at the Tourmalet. The Vuelta entourage would have returned to Spain that evening, and pass the first rest day within Spanish territory, before starting up again Tuesday in Vitoria in Spain’s Basque Country for stage 7.

Without the Tourmalet, the Vuelta loses one of its hardest and most decisive stages in 2020.

The 2020 Vuelta already nixed its planned departure in The Netherlands as well as canceled two stages inside Portugal due to the health crisis.