The Vuelta cycling race gets underway on Tuesday amid tight health restrictions in hopes of avoiding coronavirus infections that have resulted in the exclusion of some riders, including favorites, from the Giro d ‘ Italy.
Primoz Roglic is back to defend his title weeks after losing the Tour de France on the penultimate stage. Two-time champion Chris Froome will be his main rival in his final grand tour for Ineos, formerly Team Sky, before joining Israel Start-Up Nation next season. Thibaut Pinot, Alejandro Valverde and Johan Esteban Chaves are also among the contenders.
Despite a tough field, La Vuelta’s health protocols will take center stage.
The Vuelta starts before the end of the Giro next weekend. Both grand tours, like the Tour de France, were postponed due to the pandemic, and the tight schedule forced the Vuelta and the Giro to overlap.
The Tour de France ended without any infection, with the exception of race director Christian Prudhomme. The Giro, however, lost two full teams due to the virus. Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma withdrew from the Italian race last week after a string of positive results on the first day of rest. Midshipmen Simon Yates and Steven Kruijswijk were among those who tested positive.
With Spain struggling to contain its own resurgence of contagion, Giro director Mauro Vegni said last week: “Given the numbers in Spain, I would be very worried about the Vuelta if I were instead. by Javier Guillén [directeur de course]. “
Guillén tried to reassure the participants and the staff of the Vuelta that the race can be run safely, just like the Tour de France. The Tour and the Vuelta are managed by the same company.
“We worked together on protocols and exchanged information during the Tour,” Guillén told the Spanish sports daily. Mundo Deportivo. The measures taken during the Tour helped counter COVID-19 and allowed the race to begin and end. I have no information on the Giro. “
All runners and team and race staff were tested on Sunday. The Vuelta will follow the same procedure as the Tour, ie to repeat the tests on the two rest days of the race.
One difference with the Tour is that at La Vuelta a team will be asked to leave the race if two riders test positive, as opposed to two team members, including staff, on the Tour.
Strict sanitary measures
La Vuelta has taken several steps which will hopefully keep the riders in good health and continue the race until Madrid.
The public is encouraged not to congregate at the finish lines, and organizers will cut off access to mountain passes which are popular gathering places to encourage runners on grueling climbs. The message is being sent on social media asking fans to stay home and watch the race on TV this year.
A facial recognition phone application will replace the traditional signature of runners at the start of each stage to reduce contact with pens and surfaces.
All team members and race personnel are encouraged to wear face coverings, wash their hands frequently, respect physical distance and have no contact outside of the “race bubble”.
A mobile laboratory will follow the race in a 14-meter trailer. The lab will analyze all tests during the race. With 18 specialists, it has the capacity to analyze up to 1,000 tests per day with results in 24 hours, race organizers said.
Anyone accredited for the race must present a negative test result within five days of the start of the race.
Shorter, colder and rainier?
Normally held during the warm weeks of late August and early September, the race now takes place in the fall, and entirely in the northern half of Spain, which can receive significant rainfall and record cold weather at this time of the year. ‘year.
The 75e Edition of the race will have only 18 stages, instead of the recent standard of 21.
The organizers have canceled the plan to hold the first three stages in the Netherlands. The start of the race has been moved to the region of the Basque Country, home to many of Spain’s most passionate cycling enthusiasts. The plan to move to Portugal during the 15th and 16th stages was also abandoned.
Considering the hills and mountains of northern Spain, the race will only have three flat stages. There is also only one time trial, during the 13e step.
Tuesday’s start will set the tone for this mountain race with a 151-kilometer route starting from Irun, where the riders will pass three summits of 3e category before a top of the first category in Arrate.
The arrival of the 17e stage at the top of La Covatilla will decide the winner before the parade in the Spanish capital on November 8.