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Vuelta a España 2021: A return to Spain’s south

Vuelta a España race director confirms next year's race will return to Spain's Andalucía region.

After an extraordinary edition of the Vuelta a España that stayed snuggly in the northern half of Spain, next year’s course will return to the sunny southern side of the Iberia Peninsula.

That’s according to Vuelta director Javier Guillén, who said the 2021 route will include a wider swath of Spain that includes stages along Spain’s sunny southern regions.

“We will go back to Andalucía,” Guillén told Radio MARCA. “It won’t be a Vuelta so much in the north as we saw this year.”

It’s already been confirmed that the 2021 Vuelta will begin in Burgos, in northern Spain, with an unlikely start of an opening time trial inside the portico of Burgos’s famed 13th-century Gothic cathedral. Guillén said the Vuelta staff will take a quick breather before jumping into the task of finalizing the route for next season, typically with course details revealed in December.

Guillén also shot down suggestions that the Vuelta might permanently move its dates later on the racing calendar and vowed that its recent window of racing from mid-August into early September will return in 2021. Some said that the Vuelta was even more spectacular this year because its reorganized dates overlapped with Spain’s autumn, serving up some spectacular images of racing through forests with the leaves in full splendor.

Guillén agreed the images of fall colors were beautiful but admitted that the weather gods were also on the side of the Vuelta. Despite a few days of cold and rain, the shortened 18-stage race unfolded without any major disruptions due to weather. There was fear that stages finishing in the high mountains of Spain’s Cantabrian range could have been walloped with snow and ice if an early winter storm had blown in off the North Atlantic.

“Bikes are meant for summer,” Guillén said. “We could pull off this Vuelta because we got lucky with the weather. The Vuelta next year needs to start on August 14, and that would be the best sign [of better health conditions]. We just hope that we don’t have to do next year all the things we put into practice this year.”

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic forced Vuelta officials to cancel stages in Portugal and France, as well as its depart in The Netherlands. It’s likely the 2021 Vuelta route will remain within Spanish borders, and Guillén repeated the hope of taking the race to Spain’s Canary Islands, a long-held dream for race organizers, within the next few years.

Guillén also thanked riders and teams for their collective efforts to stay safe and race under pandemic conditions. Despite a worsening health situation in Spain throughout the Vuelta, the race arrived in Madrid without any riders being diagnosed with COVID-19.

The Vuelta received high marks from riders and teams for its efforts to protect the “race bubble,” but Guillén admitted it was a big relief to see the race arrive in Madrid on Sunday following a series of COVID controls.

“The worse was the first rest day,” Guillén said. “That was when we’d see if the ‘bubble’ was really working or not. By the second rest day, we had a bit more assurances that the Vuelta was going to arrive in Madrid. Those were the days with the most tension.”