Vuelta reduced to 18 stages, waiting for official dates

Spanish grand tour vows to push on as Clásica San Sebastián and Itzulia Basque Country are both canceled for 2020.

The 2020 Vuelta a España will ride a reduced, 18-stage format this year, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Dutch officials said they would not host the planned three stages as part of the scheduled start of the 2020 Vuelta due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As a result, organizers from the Spanish grand tour have decided not to replace the stages, and hold the season’s third grand tour with just 18 stages and two rest days for its otherwise planned route.

A new start will be in Spain’s Basque Country, though the exact date is still not nailed down after the UCI held off finalizing the adjusted 2020 calendar.

“When you’re designing a race, you’re not expecting changes of such magnitude,” said Vuelta boss Javier Guillén. “We have to be sensitive to current conditions, and we realize it would be very complicated to substitute another official start.”

It will be the first time since 1979 that the Vuelta will start in Spain’s Basque Country, and it will mark the first edition since 1985 that the Vuelta will be less than 21 stages. There has been some suggestion that the Vuelta, and Giro d’Italia could be raced with a reduced number of stages to ease pressure on teams and riders later this season.

“We still don’t know the dates of the race, but the race wants to keep its 18 stages,” Guillén said. “This doesn’t mean that some city on the route could have some unseen circumstances and it could be impossible to host a stage, and we could make adjustments. Right now, we’re in contact with all the institutions, and the intent is to fulfill the race and route just as it is planned.”

Also in Spain, officials from the Clásica San Sebastián and the Itzulia Basque Country said they would try to reschedule their events this year, saying they did not want to put too much pressure on institutions. Officials said both races will be back in 2021.