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Vuelta a España commits to expanding women’s race

Race could grow up to seven stages as ASO widens its reach into women's racing.

Just as ASO is putting its organizational weight behind women’s racing with a Tour de France set for 2022, Spain’s Unipublic also committed to expanding its backing of elite women’s racing.

Javier Guillén, director of the Vuelta a España, confirmed Tuesday that a larger women’s race is in the cards.

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Guillén said the current three-day Challenge by La Vuelta will be expanded to five to seven stages in the coming years.

“Even more satisfying is the investment we are making in women’s racing,” Guillén said Tuesday. “We already promote the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, a race of three days, a race that has a solid foundation to grow.

“And just like what ASO is doing with the Tour de France, it’s a race that has all the underpinnings within the medium and long term can grow into a race of five to seven stages, which would position it as one of the most important stages on the women’s international calendar.”

Unipublic, which runs the men’s Vuelta a España, is wholly owned by ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation), the powerhouse behind the men’s Tour de France, one-day classics such as Paris-Roubaix, and other weeklong stage races Paris-Nice and Critérium du Dauphiné.

ASO — which introduced La Course by Le Tour De France in 2014 — has already committed to a weeklong women’s Tour de France, set to be held in 2022.

Key stakeholders in women’s racing say the high-profile exposure afforded by the mystique of the yellow jersey and the history of the Tour will mark a “before and after” moment in the development of women’s racing.

The comments from Guillén on Tuesday, held during a conference hosted by the EuropaPress media outlet, further underscore ASO’s commitment to women’s racing.

Guillén did not put a timeline on when the event will be expanded but said there is renewed momentum and interest for women’s racing among institutions and backers.

“It’s something that we are going to bet on, not only because we feel some sort of obligation, but rather because it works, and the return is there year-after-year,” Guillén said. “And because we have partners who want us to do it, and most important, it’s a race that works.”

The Challenge by La Vuelta was introduced in 2015 as a one-day race coinciding with the final stage of the men’s Vuelta. American rider Shelley Olds won the first edition.

In 2018, the race was expanded to include two stages. In 2020, the race was expanded further to three stages with the arrival of sponsor Ceratizit, with Lisa Brennauer winning the overall.