By Agence France Presse
Organizers of the world’s biggest bike race, the Tour de France, are poised to take over the three-week Vuelta a España, according to Spanish press reports on Friday.
“Rumors of an agreement between ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation) and Unipublic have been circling for about a year,” the Spanish sports daily Marca reported Friday.
The paper said that talks between ASO, the Tour’s parent company, which also own a host of other major sporting events, and UniPublic, which runs the Vuelta, “have been ongoing for several weeks.”
The Vuelta, scheduled in September, is considered to be the smallest and least prestigious of cycling’s trio of three-week races, but is often viewed as the favorite of many riders, fans and journalists because of its relaxed atmosphere and shorter stages.
The Vuelta’s decline has gathered momentum in recent years due to a string of doping scandals involving former winners. Most recently, Roberto Heras won the race for a record fourth time in 2005, but then tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin).
As a number of scandals elsewhere continue to leave the sport fighting for its credibility, fans in Spain have largely turned off and tuned out.
Tour de France chief Christian Prudhomme, who attended the 2008 Vuelta, was asked to confirm the rumors of a possible takeover but refused to make any comment.