There’s a saying in the film industry that refers, comically, to the stop-start nature of life on set. “Hurry up and wait” is the order of the day as people frantically run around trying to get themselves ready for the next take, but then find themselves, inevitably, waiting for everyone else to get themselves in gear as well. This must have been akin to the feeling of Javier Guillen, race director of the Vuelta a Espana, for much of this past year as he desperately tried to plan and replan this year’s race, adjusting and readjusting to the next curveball that the coronavirus threw his way. It had been shortened, the date had been moved, stages cancelled, borders now impassable, teams dropping out. Utter chaos. There was an air of relief about the proceedings as Primoz Roglic cruised to his second Vuelta victory in a row and Guillen, no doubt, will have breathed a sigh of relief also.
Speaking to Spanish newspaper Marca earlier this week, the director said that “leaving Irún and arriving in Madrid was a very difficult challenge to undertake… We have been able to take it day by day, and we have to give credit to the responsibility taken on by the riders and their teams, as they're really the engine that makes it all move." Guillen went on to praise the efficacy of “the bubble”, as his primary fear, naturally, was that a spate of positive Covid-19 tests would decimate the peloton, as occurred with the Giro d’Italia barely a week earlier. Unlike the Giro, however, not a single positive test came back for any rider or team staffer in the race. The first rest day brought back 684 negative coronavirus tests and the second rendered 681 negatives. The bubble had worked.
Now, the director and his team look forward to next year. Fortunately for them, weather-wise, things did fall into place this year. Even though the race went into November, the weather was manageable. Rain did not hamper proceedings. There was no threat of snow. Things went, largely, as they would otherwise have done. All the same, Guillen is hoping that things return to normal next year, as are we all. “Cycling’s a summer sport… We were able to hold the race later this year because the weather was very kind to us. Spain is normally beautiful in autumn, but the start of the race next year is due to be on August 14, and that would be the best time for it… I hope that nothing that we have had to put into practice this year will have to be put in place next year.” This is something that every sporting organiser in the world will be hoping for also, I’m sure. Now, as we wait for the start of the next season (already not far away), the cycling world waits with baited breath to see when, and if, they’ll be able to get going again.