Vuelta a España director Javier Guillén has defended both the partial suspension of the stage 2 finale on Sunday and the way the organisation handled the challenging conditions in Saturday’s crash-blighted TTT.
Numerous riders fell heavily on Saturday’s evening TTT as the rain and dark encroached on the city centre course in Barcelona, sparking a wave of discontent in the peloton that rolled through to the start of stage 2.
After heavy rain fell in Catalunya overnight and through the first part of Sunday, riders expressed strong criticism that their voices were going unheard by the race organisation – “we’re pawns in their game” said Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers).
Further threats from the peloton also emerged about holding an unspoken truce for the final hilly, technical, segment of stage 2, running through Barcelona’s Montjuic Park.
Given the ongoing difficulties, the Vuelta a España finally opted to take GC times at nine kilometres from the line on stage 2. All of the main overall contenders duly sat up at the foot of Montjuic Park and rolled across the finish minutes after Andreas Krön (Lotto-Dstny) had taken the win.
As he looked back on a fraught weekend where the importance of any actual racing in the Vuelta shrank to the bare minimum possible, Guillèn told Spanish TV that the decision to partially suspend stage 2 had been due to the bad weather.
“There’s a formula for these circumstances, the extreme weather protocol, which we used, and this morning the petition came through to suspend part of the course because of the very heavy rain and its effects,” Guillén said.
“We also weighed up the fact that this is the first part of the Vuelta and when it rains on terrain where it’s been as dry as it has been in Catalunya for the last few months, then the risk level increases.”
“We weighed up all our options and we reached a unanimous agreement to take the times on GC with 9 kilometres to go.”
Guillén claimed that in the meeting which decided the suspension, the riders had been the main actors. He added that the important thing was “to save the day. It was very important for the race to get to Barcelona to pay homage to the magnificent public.”
Asked if he felt that such a suspension could be repeated in the future, Guillén said that was impossible to predict. However, he insisted that “if we eliminate everything from a race, then we all lose.”
“Safety is the key matter, no other criteria matters. We had…