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Vuelta start likely set for Basque Country in late October

Reports suggest a start date of October 24 on northern coast of Spain, with originally-planned Dutch start delayed to 2022.

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The revised Vuelta a España will likely be an all-Spanish affair, with the possibility of a truncated race as cycling tries to readjust with a new calendar packed into the autumn.

Media reports in Spain link the Spanish grand tour to a new starting date of October 24 in the port city of Irun along the Basque Country coast. The race’s planned start in the Netherlands, originally set for late August, will be delayed until 2022.

There’s also talk of trimming a few days off the Vuelta route, running it for 18 days instead of 21, but nothing is confirmed yet. Officials are hoping to confirm the dates for the revised racing calendar — including dates for the women’s WorldTour — by May 15.

“Right now, we cannot say the exact dates of the Giro, or the Vuelta, but the big picture is mapped out,” said Vuelta director Javier Guillén. “The UCI has decided that after the Tour comes the Giro, then the Vuelta. We hope to have everything finalized by May 15.”

Last week, the UCI confirmed new dates for the Tour de France (August 29-September 20), which put cycling’s most important stage race in direct conflict with the Vuelta.

Stakeholders decided the best option was to continue racing until late November, and slotted in the Giro d’Italia after the worlds — the only major event sticking to its original dates — and then the Vuelta beginning in late October. So far, Giro organizers RCS Sport are resisting efforts to reduce the Italian grand tour, and hope to run its race October 3-25 on a course within Italian borders.

Of course, everything depends on the evolution of the coronavirus crisis across Europe. France, Spain and Italy — the host nations of the season’s three grand tours — have been among the hardest hit in terms of infection rates and fatalities. Following more than a month of lockdown conditions, there are signs that conditions are improving.

There is heated debate about how fast nations should ease restrictions, and whether having something as mobile and open as a grand tour will be feasible. Cycling officials at least want to have a roadmap for a return to competition if officials allow.

The revised dates would also provoke concerns about the weather. Running the Tour into mid-September would be fine, but some wonder if high mountain passes could be clogged with snow in October in Italy or November in northern Spain.

“The Tour isn’t a problem because it’s still good weather in September in Europe,” said EF Pro Cycling’s Rigoberto Urán. “Worlds in September also isn’t a problem, but things change in October. We’ve felt cold in Lombardia in October, and that’s not that much more than sea level. To climb into the Dolomites during that time of year is complicated and it starts to snow. And don’t even mention November in Spain, it will be even colder.”