And just like that, the 2020 season is over. Truncated though it was, it still had room for plenty of twists and turns, climbs and descents and all the drama that we’ve come to expect from the world racing calendar, and then some. With the coronavirus throwing plans for most of the year into the trash, all that excitement has been crammed together into a matter of months and now, the last Grand Tour is finished, just as suddenly as the season began again after the three-month lockdown.
The Vuelta a Espana route had been steadily eaten away at over the year, with many wondering if it would, in fact, be cancelled outright, with all the uncertainty hanging around the season and the palaver with that multitude of infections at the Giro d’Italia that had been running concurrently. First, back in April, the planned start in the Netherlands was nixed. The crossing of borders in northern Europe had become an insurmountable challenge and what was to, originally, have been stage four (Irun to Arrate) became the Grand Depart and stage one.
Later, in the summer, two planned stages in Portugal were also removed, also due to the coronavirus, and those two stages were rerouted back into Spain. On a personal note, I do find it slightly strange that the Vuelta a “Espana” would plan to have so much of it take place outside the country for which the race is named but, of course, there any many things other than geography to take into account when planning a race of this magnitude. In any case, the shortened race did end up taking place entirely in Spain and was won, like last year, by Slovenian superstar Primoz Roglic of Dutch team Jumbo-Visma. He cruised to victory over the course of the final stage into Madrid, finishing twenty-four seconds ahead of second-placed rider Richard Carapaz to retain his crown and the coveted red jersey.
As the final stage progressed, there was almost a jovial atmosphere, with many riders approaching Roglic on the way round to congratulate him on the win. Along with the well-deserved congratulations and joy at the win for Primoz Roglic and Jumbo-Visma, there was, more broadly, it seemed there was a degree of relief. Three Grand Tours in the space of two months is unheard of in modern cycling and, although there’s no doubt that the planning for said races will not have paused, even briefly, during the lockdown earlier this year, until the horn sounds and the riders are away on the course, there was no guarantee that the races were even to happen. For the riders and teams, it was a case of waiting and waiting and waiting and then ZOOM, a huge burst of energy, physical and mental, over the course of two months. Now, it’s done, and the teams can rest. Who knows what next season will bring or when it will bring it? Nothing has been certain in this weird, exhausting year. Everyone will be hoping, I’m sure, that next year is different.