Road

Vuelta director not worried by risk of poor weather or thin start-sheets

Guillén not concerned by prospect of riders staying away from late-season Vuelta due to inclement weather or packed schedules.

A Tour de France in September, “spring” classics in fall, and a Vuelta a España in early-winter are all among the oddities expected to be seen in the UCI’s new-look calendar, expected to be released Tuesday.

Vuelta a España director Javier Guillén expressed optimism about his race, despite it looking likely to run through the declining temperatures of November and acting as the closer of a season condensed into four months.

A provisional calendar for 2020 puts the Tour, Giro and Vuelta in back-to-back months, but Guillén doesn’t fear for the strength and depth of riders likely to line up for his race.

“I am convinced that great cyclists can aspire to win Tour and Vuelta, absolutely,” Guillén said Friday.

“I am optimistic about the participation that we are going to have,” he said. “In such a scenario, the Vuelta may be able to pick up whoever wants to double the Tour, and have those who make the Vuelta their great goal.”

Riders aiming at a Tour-Vuelta double in a typical season have around one month after arriving in Paris to recover and then rebuild for the start in Spain — an optimal window to hold form without burning out. The provisional dates for the 2020 Tour, due to run through to September 20, and the Vuelta, slated to start early November, still offer riders this opportunity.

Vuelta officials already confirmed that the scheduled start in the Netherlands will be canceled, and that the 2020 edition will be shortened to 18 stages with two rest days.

“The teams do not know the schedule, except that the Tour de France begins on August 29. They also know that the road race of the world championship is on September 27, but they do not know anything else,” Guillén told AS. “It is very difficult to talk to them about planning and scheduling. It is very premature for the teams to decide now, but I am optimistic.”

Of all the grand tours, the Vuelta is the one best suited to an early-winter start slot, with November temperatures still peaking at around 20 degrees C in the south and 10 degrees C in the north. Guillén isn’t worried about teams being deterred from attending due to poor conditions.

“I am not afraid that the weather may prevent any cyclist from coming, because they and their teams have asked the UCI to extend the calendar to the entire month of November,” he said. “This invites me to think that none will stop coming due to the weather.”

With the exception of the Vuelta’s visits to Andorra, the race tends to stay at lower altitudes compared to the thin air riders have to battle in the French and Italian Alps, and even at the best of times, mountain weather is unpredictable.

“L’Angliru we have already climbed it many times with adverse weather, in summer, with a lot of fog or bad weather, like the year that Contador won or the ‘Chava’ Jiménez,” Guillén reminded. “It never takes away that on a mountain day you can have rain. Last year in Andorra the hailstorm was historic. We do not expect temperatures below freezing in any case, and there are means in the kits to alleviate any situation.”

Remember, the saying goes: ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.’ Riders headed to the Vuelta this year had better pack their raincoat.