Long battered by economic woes and sponsorship challenges, the once-vibrant Spanish racing calendar will see a boost in 2016 with the return of the five-day Tour of Valencia in February.
Ever since the economic crisis swept Spain in 2008, the Spanish racing calendar has struggled to stay afloat. Races such as Valencia either folded or reduced the length of their race. The Vuelta a Murcia, for example, went from a five-day event to a one-day criterium.
The Spanish economy has stabilized, and regional governments that serve as important backers for most of the bike racing infrastructure in Spain are once again finding room in their budgets.
Former pro Ángel Casero and his brother Rafa found support from local politicians and sponsors to bring back the five-day Valencia tour (Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, UCI 2.1), which folded after the 2008 edition.
“We’re excited about the project,” Casero told Spanish sports daily Superdeporte. “The idea is to have a mountaintop finale, a time trial, a good mix of stages and top teams. We hope the race lasts another 80 years.”
The Volta dated back to 1929 but folded in 2008, with Ruben Plaza, riding for Orica-GreenEdge next season, as the last winner.
Efforts to revive the race faltered as Spain’s economy imploded, and government agencies introduced austerity programs. Casero said he’s hoping to have a budget of 800,000 euros for the race.
“We’ve found a good mix of sponsors and government bodies interested in the race,” he said. “We hope to be able to televise the race as well. It’s an expensive project, but we’re enthusiastic.”
The revival on the road comes as the Spanish peloton is also seeing new faces pick up the mantle from established stars, such as Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde. Mikel Landa is among a new generation of Spanish riders poised to step up as he moves to Sky.
The race returns to the elite calendar from February 3-7, with an opening time trial in Castellón. More details of the full route will be revealed in the coming months. Organizers are hoping to see a handful of WorldTeams round out the peloton.
The race will slot into what will be a revived Spanish spring calendar, giving teams a nice alternative to racing in relatively warm climes of Mediterranean Spain instead of traveling to the Middle East or the more frigid areas of southern France during February.
Many of the top teams already hold training camps in the Valencia region, based in such places as Calpe or Denia, and many will likely stay there to race what’s becoming a busy spring Spanish calendar.
The Mallorca Challenge (January 28-31) opens the Spanish calendar, with Valencia slotting in February 3-7, ahead of one-day races at Murcia and Almeria on February 13-14. The Ruta del Sol fills out the busy month February 17-21. March features the WorldTour Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (March 21-27), followed by a full April schedule.