On Saturday August 26, the 78th edition of the return will start in Barcelona, in a race in which the mountains will predominate and that it will also have a foreign touch after the days that the Spanish round will live in Andorra and France. Barely five months after the start in Barcelona, Javier Guillén (Madrid, 1972), director of La Vuelta, visits AS to review current events, analyze this year’s route, future plans…
“From an organizational point of view we still have some things to do, but we are really looking forward to the month of August. The first part of this 2023 is leaving us with a spectacular level of runners, it is the best moment in cycling and our sport is on the rise”, said Guillén, who has led La Vuelta since 2009. El Angliru, Tourmalet, Xorret de Catí… a list of illustrious ports will be present on the roadmap for this 2023 (consult the list of stages): “It is a route that is far from what we had in 2022, but it follows the line that we have been seeing in La Vuelta for the last fifteen years, with a layout in which the mountain is the most predominant element. We wanted to pay homage to those great colossi that have defined La Vuelta and cycling. We also combine it with unprecedented arrivals, which is something of our hallmark, as will happen with La Cruz de Linares, in Asturias. It will be the great discovery of this year”.
And with all this on the menu, what will be the queen stage? “I wouldn’t know how to answer. They talk about the tourmalet daybut the next day they have an end in Larra-Belagua that, with the wear and tear of the previous day, it can be very important. The stage in Madrid, the penultimate before finishing in the capital, with those ten third-class ports and that aroma of classic… it is a Vuelta in which you intend to go from less to more and that everything is decided there. We leave the queen stage qualifier for the fans to choose”, highlighted the race director. This year the situation will change, because usually the World Cups are after La Vuelta, while in 2023, in a special way, they will run between the Tour (July 1 to 23) and the Spanish race.
From August 5 to 13, Glasgow will be the cycling epicenter, with World Cup events in all modalities, except cyclocross. A fact that could affect the starting list for La Vuelta. “We don’t know how it may affect our career, but it is certain that it will be something different and it has also invited us to do the type of route we have chosen. We had to make a list of stages that would speak for themselves, that were independent enough for any runner to want to take part. Perhaps if there was no World Cup, instead of Angliru we would have included Lagos de Covadonga. We believe that we are going to have a great participation as well,” specified the president of Unipublic, the organizer of the race.
The World Cup, between Tour and Vuelta
Another challenge is to “promote” the presence of Spanish stars: “A few years ago they told us that La Vuelta suffered a bit from foreign runners. That is no longer the case and, together with them, it would be important for cyclists like Juan Ayuso, Carlos Rodríguez, Enric Mas… to accompany us (they all plan to do so). It’s the home race”. That will also motivate the fans: “If cycling is known for something, it is because it is the sport that will see the spectator, and not the spectator who goes to the sport. In this key we need that when the race passes through the different ports, locations… They are waiting for us at the foot of the road. It is what I ask of you and what I will always be grateful for”Guillén demanded in a message to the fans. With fervor assured, the unknown that remained to be known for this Tour was revealed a few weeks ago: the participating teams.
With 22 with fixed position (the 20 World Tour and the two with the best ranking within the ProTeams category), remained two invitations and not three like last year, since it was an exceptional measure that the UCI accepted. Burgos and Caja Rural were chosen this year, although Guillén advises for future editions: “We have four Spanish teams in Pro Teams (in addition to the two mentioned, there are Kern Pharma and Euskaltel Euskadi). It’s not easy to choose, but we don’t want to stay in the national teams either, because La Vuelta is a very international race. Next year there are criteria for these elections. Teams must be in the top 50 of the UCI ranking. The following year between 40, and then between 30. We will make our selections on those, but of course it is never easy ”.
La Vuelta 2023 has not yet been played, but from Unipublic they are already thinking about the next editions, and they are working on it. They consider that the 2022 start in Utrecht “was a total success”, so the idea of more trips abroad is likely in the short and medium term: “We have many requests to leave abroad. In the next four years I see at least one exit from outside Spain”. On whether Monaco could be one of the chosen ones, Guillén stressed that “it would be ideal to get out of a place like this”, but for the moment “nothing is closed”. “Even from Latin America we have received calls to host an exit, but for now it is far away,” he added. Not in America, but Guillén did speak of another continent as more likely: Africa. “We have seen that Morocco joined the candidacy of Spain and Portugal for the 2030 World Cup, and a country like Africa could also be strategic for our career. We have spoken with them. The Atlas area, Marrakech… they would be the most suitable”, added Guillen about future plans.
Pending challenges and more departures from abroad
Within Spain, one of the great challenges pending for Guillén since his arrival at the management is that the Canary Islands form part of La Vuelta: “Due to logistics it is complicated, And it would be strange to go there and not climb Mount Teide, because due to environmental protection, it would not be possible to reach the top. The same thing happened to us last year in Sierra Nevada. He would say that, if he went, he would never end on Teide and we could only choose two islands ”. In 2019, the runners started a lap inside the San Mamés stadium, in Bilbao, and Guillén hopes to repeat something like this: “It was fun and the ideal thing would be to do it with a full stadium. For that it must coincide with a matchask for permits… but we cannot close our doors”.
Regarding the fight against doping, he once again expressed his full support: “There are three sporting events that paralyze everything. These are the World Cup, the Olympic Games and the Tour de France (organized by ASO, a company also involved in La Vuelta). The latter is the only annual. In 1998 (Festina Case) this was put in danger: credibility, sponsors… then cycling realized that its survival was at stake and they took action.” 2023 will be a date that will always be marked in red, since it will be the year with the first official Women’s Tour under that name. “It is an important step in which we could not be left behind. Fernando Escartín will be its director and from Unipublic we will give the same treatment as the men’s edition”. The Tour grows.