Road

Stages in Portugal removed from Vuelta route

Two of the Vuelta's 18 planned stages won't be going to its neighbor, but a scheduled crossing into France remains part of 2020 course.

The Vuelta a España won’t be going to Portugal after all.

Citing possible complications due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the Spanish grand tour confirmed Saturday it will nix two stages set for its neighbor late in the 2020 edition.

“In a situation so exceptional that we’re living, we have to be flexible and be open and prepared to take these types of decisions and changes,” said Vuelta director Javier Guillén.

As reported by VeloNews, the Vuelta’s planned excursions into Portugal and France would create additional complications in what remains a quickly evolving situation in Europe. Though conditions are easing after nearly two months of virtual lockdown, restrictions remain uneven across the continent, and traveling freely across European borders is not a guarantee in the coming weeks or months.

Two stages that dipped into Portugal are already rescheduled to remain in Spain, and will be confirmed in the coming weeks, Guillén said.

“Everything else is in place,” Guillén said. “We don’t envision any further changes in the 18 stages that make up the 2020 Vuelta a España.”

As originally scheduled, stage 15 was set to leave Spain via Galicia and stop overnight near Oporto in northern Portugal. The following day’s stage 16 was slated to start in Viseu, and re-enter Spain to finish in Cuidad Rodrigo. Officials from Oporto were raising doubts about the practicality of the stage, and didn’t feel there was enough time to plan everything under the uncertainty of current conditions, and mutually agreed with the Vuelta to hold off on the stage, Guillén said.

After a planned start in the Netherlands was canceled, Guillén said no further changes to the Vuelta route are expected, meaning that the race is sticking to plans to cross into France for one stage.

Stage 6 will start in Biescas on the Spanish side of the Pyrénées, and end atop the Col du Tourmalet on October 25. That’s been dubbed “Super Sunday,” as it is the same day the Giro d’Italia concludes as well as Paris-Roubaix. Following a rest day, the Vuelta entourage returns to Spain for stage 7 starting in Vitoria.

With any border crossing, teams will be wary of a possible replay of what happened at the UAE Tour in February, when riders and staffers were locked away in hotel rooms, sometimes for weeks, in a sudden flare-up of the coronavirus.

The stages into Portugal were going to be the first time the Vuelta visited its western neighbor since 1997 in Lisbon. Guillén said he hopes once conditions improve the Vuelta will be able to return to Portugal soon.

Of the three grand tours rescheduled for this fall, the Vuelta is the only one to leave its national borders. Giro d’Italia officials confirmed this week, with its planned start in Budapest already off the books, that it will race its 21-stage route entirely within Italy, with a new start city expected to be revealed soon. The Tour de France route will see some minor modifications, but there were no foreign excursions as part of the planned 2020 course.