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Vuelta won’t alter route in wake of terrorist attacks

Race officials say heightened security measures will allow the Spanish grand tour to begin as scheduled.

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NIMES, France (VN) — The horrible terrorist attack Thursday in Barcelona that left more than a dozen killed won’t alter plans for the 2017 Vuelta a España.

Race officials said heightened security measures in place in both France and Spain will allow the 21-stage Spanish grand tour to begin Saturday as scheduled.

“Absolutely not,” said Vuelta race director Javier Guillén when asked if the race would be altered. “The Vuelta continues with its route as planned. Of course, the Vuelta with its 21 stages are already set, and we are planning on holding them as expected.”

On Thursday, Spain suffered its worst terrorist attack in more than a decade when a van driver killed more than a dozen people and injured scores more on Barcelona’s popular Las Ramblas tourist area. Spanish officials also intercepted another terrorist cell in Cambrils along Spain’s Mediterranean coast, near the finishing town of Tarragona for stage 4.

While neither cities are featured on the Vuelta’s 2017 route, authorities are on maximum alert on both sides of the border.

On Thursday evening, in light of the nearby Barcelona attack, French police and military authorities swept into Nimes. Authorities surrounded the historic Roman Arena and other public areas. Police presence remained high for Saturday’s scheduled start of the race, with police and military officers patrolling public areas with full military gear.

The Vuelta paid honor to the victims during Friday’s team presentation, and Guillén said the attacks deeply affected everyone within the cycling community. Guillén expressed his condolences on behalf of the Vuelta organization to the victims and their families.

“These terrorists want to attack our culture, our way of life, our lifestyle, and we cannot permit that,” Guillén told VeloNews. “The best thing we can do is to keep doing what we do. And we have to defend our values by keep doing it.”

Cycling officials across Europe are grappling with the threat of terrorist attacks. Last summer terrorists drove a large truck into a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, killing nearly 100 people and injuring hundreds more. French officials, despite some concern, allowed that year’s Tour de France to continue.

Cycling’s dynamic of racing on open roads and finishing in highly packed public areas make it a tricky issue for security officials. Races have often been the target of protesters or the occasional striking workers, but so far, no major cycling event has been affected by terrorists.

French authorities have upped security following a string of high-profile terrorist attacks over the past 18 months, while Spanish officials have struggled with terrorism for decades.

This year’s Tour de France saw noticeably increased police and military presence. Roads were often blocked going into start and finish areas with concrete barriers and large industrial vehicles. Police patrolled roadways and access points, while other security agencies monitored activity during the race.

Cycling events so far have been unhindered despite a recent uptick of attacks across Europe.

“In Spain, the alert levels are already at the maximum, and here in France, they’ve been under this threat for more than one year,” Guillén said. “We shouldn’t just look at one event, because there are many public events, not just ours, and the best thing we can do against this is to continue with our day-to-day routines.”