Guillén: Vuelta will be ‘complicated’

Race director 'optimistic' for future of Vuelta a España though acknowledges it won't be straightforward.

Javier Guillén has four and a half months left to organize the Vuelta a España and knows it won’t be easy.

The Spanish race, now scheduled to start October 20, has already had to cancel its planned Dutch start, cut its parcours back to 18 stages, and reconfigure routes originally planned to pass through Portugal. Next up on the to-do list is the nitty-gritty of health and safety measures.

“We have to guarantee the sanitary protocol in which we work,” Guillén said this week. “Organizationally it is very complicated because every day it is a hotel,  every day a city and concentrations are not a possibility.”

Despite the difficulties ahead, Guillén and his team have the relative luxury of 18 weeks of planning time and the ability to study and mimic practices used at the preceding Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.

“Still, I am very optimistic,” Guillén said in a video conference. “The future of La Vuelta I see well. We do not have to reinvent ourselves to a different normality because we are already in a new moment.”

Guillén has already accepted that his race may have to be held behind closed doors, and confirmed in recent weeks that it was already under investigation as an absolute last resort. “Sport without an audience loses soul and essence,” he said this week.

However, with Europe now seemingly past the peak in coronavirus cases, Guillén is hopeful that the need for extreme sanitary measures may have dampened by fall, saying “Let’s hope that in October there are less restrictions for our public and we can count on the fans on the road.”

Like the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España plays a large role in the country’s tourist economy, with a recent report revealing the social and touristic boost coming off the back of the race. Guillén again emphasized the importance of his race to the country’s finances and worldwide standing.

“We are a sports engine, but also a tourist one, and it hurts me a lot to see that sport seems somewhat residual,” he said. “If people knew everything that professional sport drives, they would not speak so frivolously.”

Guillén has time on his hands and the ability to ape what he sees other race organizers doing through summer. With many Tour de France riders considering doubling up their season with the Vuelta, he will not be the only one hoping the race goes ahead as planned.