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Guillén confirms ASO’s growing interest in Colombia

Vuelta director hopes to see Egan Bernal at start of 2020 Vuelta.

ASO, the powerful promoter that owns Tour de France and other top races, is looking to expand its reach to South America.

That’s according to Vuelta a España director Javier Guillén, who said the growing cycling boom in Colombia and in other countries in the massive Latin American market has not gone unnoticed by the Amaury Sports Organisation.

“ASO has interest in all of Latin America,” Guillén told AS. “Right now is the moment to search out opportunities, and see how we get through COVID-19. Colombia is a target right now for ASO to grow its brand.”

ASO’s global reach continues to grow. Not only does the company own such WorldTour standard-bearers as the Tour, Vuelta, Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Critérium du Dauphiné and a host of other one-day and week-long races in Europe, it also owns or promotes races in the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, the Middle East and Asia. So far, however, the company hasn’t ventured into the booming Spanish-speaking market.

The rise of such riders as Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Urán, as well as Richard Carapaz, the Ecuadorian rider who won the Giro d’Italia last year, has created a huge fan-base across the continent.

With the closure of the Amgen Tour of California last year, where ASO was a key partner, the privately held French company no longer has a footprint in the Americas. According to Guillén, the Vuelta’s holding company, Unipublic, would lead the way in ASO’s growing interest in South America.

“We have to look at the opportunities and see what can be done,” Guillén said. “It could be pro races or amateur events, but we could also look at marathons and half-marathons. We could create partnerships with existing races, or create new ones. Cycling will be the center of the project more than any other sport.”

‘We hope to see Bernal at the Vuelta’

Guillén also said the Vuelta would embrace the presence of budding superstar Egan Bernal at this year’s Vuelta.

“We’d love to have him at the start line of this Vuelta, and the next one, and the one after that,” Guillén said. “He is one of the favorites to win the Tour, and if you ask me if he could do the Tour and Vuelta, we’d love to have him as a Tour winner, as a podium finisher, or whatever.”

With the way the revised racing calendar is stacking up, the Tour and Vuelta double is emerging as one of the most realistic goals for the peloton’s GC riders. There is enough time between the Tour (August 29 to September 20) and the start of the Vuelta (October 10 to November 8) for riders to recover and take on a second grand tour.

For years, Chris Froome was a near-permanent presence at the Vuelta until he finally won the Spanish grand tour in 2017, and his presence pumped energy into the season’s third grand tour. With Bernal on the rise, Guillén said the 23-year-old Colombian is poised for great things.

“We are looking at a possible legend in cycling,” Guillén said of Bernal. “He’s destined to do great things. He is a rider who is going to leave his mark in this era.”