MADRID (AFP) — Vuelta a Espana organizers announced Friday that Saturday’s first stage will not count toward the overall standings after criticism that the team time trial circuit was too dangerous.
The Vuelta gets underway with a 7.4-kilometer race against the clock between Puerto Banus and Marbella on the Costa del Sol.
But riders have raised safety concerns, as the coastal route includes cycling over a narrow wooden bridge and a potentially hazardous dirt track.
“Having heard the concerns of teams and riders, and after an inspection of the course,” read a statement by race organizer Unipublic, “[the race jury decided that] the stage will take place on the planned route, [but] the recorded times will be counted for the team classification and not for the individual general classification.”
Photographs of sandy paths that had more to do with cyclocross racing than top-tier road racing made their way around the internet overnight and an impact. Unipublic and the local Marbella organizer constructed raised wooden platforms and installed plastic pavers, but could not do enough to ease the rising stress levels in an otherwise chilled resort town.
“For us, the course is doable, but we are sensible to the needs and requests of the riders,” said Race Director Javier Guillén.
“Changing the course is impossible for practicability, road condition reasons. Also the other solution proposed, an individual TT, is impossible to do.”
As a result, results of the Vuelta curtain-raiser will only go toward the stage win and the team’s general classification.
Briton Chris Froome (Sky) faces a star-studded field for the 70th edition of the event led by Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) as he aims to become just the third rider to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana in the same year.
“I think the organizers and the UCI took the right decision to neutralize the first stage from the general classification,” said Froome. “It’s a shame for the race but security is paramount.”
The organizer’s statement:
“The Technical Jury, having received the concerns of teams and riders and after an inspection of the course with the technical director of the race, and after obtaining the agreement of the UCI decided:
1. The stage will be held on the planned route.
2. The recorded time will be counted for the team classification and not for the individual general classification.
3. At the end of the stage, equipment [used] will be submitted to the protocol.”
Gregor Brown contributed to this report.