La Vuelta’s technical director, Kiko Garcia, told all-andorra.com about the race’s organization and mentioned some lead teams who were in with a chance to win later today in Madrid.
Interview: Silvia Monet
What are you expecting from today’s final stage? Which team has the most chance to win this year?
We expect it all! I would say Movistar, Lotto NL – Jumbo, Mitchelton-Scott, Astana Pro Team would be some of the leading teams, but, in any case, we will see a fierce fight!
Could you tell me a little about the history of La Vuelta – when did the first race take place? How much has the competition changed since then?
La Vuelta is one of the oldest cycling events in Spain and in Europe – after Tour de France it is the second biggest one. The first Tour of Spain took place in 1935. The participants took part with heavy iron bicycles and carried their own patches and tools for repairs.
After World War II, the race began touring in Spain and the admiration of this popular sport began.
I can say that the event has been growing year after year. Until 1980, we did not have TV or live broadcasting. After the 80s the situation completely changed. We started using helicopters and the quality of images improved. Consequently, the image of cycling changed as well.
How much time does it take to get the competition prepared?
We will start preparing for the next year as soon as we finish La Vuelta-18. So we need about a year to be prepared. In January 2019 we have to present the event globally, so everything must be under control.
We have 21 stages, every year we try to come to different regions, villages, towns. It’s difficult to find a balance between them.
Cycling is one of the most unique sports from the point of view of the show. We would like to come to Andorra every year, and out of the last 8 years, we have been here 6 times. It’s a fantastic place. I mean the landscape in Andorra. It’s the best way to show mountains, spectacular roads, lovely villages etc. And it’s a good opportunity to organize a big mountain race. But we cannot come back to the same places every single year.
Are the races always held only in Spain?
It’s not easy to organize all the stages just in Spain. Last year, we started in France. Once we started in Holland. Now we are thinking about other places outside of Spain.
For next year?
No, next year we have already decided to start from Alicante. But in the future, it’s possible to include some other countries on our map.
What is the budget for the event?
It’s between 15-20 million euros.
Is La Vuelta supported by the Spanish government?
Support comes more from the individual regions. Support comes more from the individual regions. Every region which is interested in having La Vuelta stage for its own promotion send us a request. We always try to take it into account. We also have some private sponsors.
There are 22 teams. Which countries are they from?
They are mainly from Europe, as traditionally, cycling is a European sport. But there are also teams from the Emirates, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Russia, the USA and so on.
Are they the same teams as for the Tour de France?
Yes, in cycling we have the first division in which we have 18 teams. They must participate in the most important races. So we always have the same 18 teams and then we invite 4 more teams. This year there are 3 additional teams from Spain and one from France.
From your point of view, which race is more complicated?
Cycling is a very complicated sport. Moreover, the logistics and all the organizational work is very difficult. To transport all the equipment to Coll de la Gallina was very tricky. I mean, to organize a finish line with a TV zone, other media zone, guest zone, fun zone etc. It’s true that Tour de France is 10 times bigger, but I think in terms of complications it’s the same.
How many racers participate in La Vuelta?
We have 176 cyclists.
What is the maximum and minimum age?
From 20-21 until… You know, there is no limit. If you feel good when you are 50 you can participate. But normally 37-38 is the maximum.
What is the prize for the finalist in 1st place?
It’s very small if we compare it to tennis, for example. Riders earn more money from their personal contracts. For first place, the best rider gets between 120,000-140,000 euros.
How many team members are there for each company?
It depends on the team and on their budget. Each team has 8 riders plus a minimum of 20 staff members
How many people are generally involved (including organizers, volunteers etc)?
There are about 2000 people.
What are the main bicycle brands?
We have quite a lot of brands: Trek, Specialized, Cervelo, BMC, Giant…
What is the weight of each bicycle?
It’s about 7 kg.
What is the price of this kind of bicycle?
It starts at around 10,000 euros.
Could you tell me about the security of the event? And about the medical support?
In terms of security, we work with 85 Spanish Guardia Civil officers plus about 80 policemen from Spain’s national police force. They take care of all the security at the start and finish lines.
As for our medical support, we have a team of 5 doctors following us each race.
Accidents are quite a frequent occurrence, aren’t they?
Yes, they almost always happen. We have many crashes because cycling is a complicated sport – speeds are high, there are many turns and steep declines. When it is raining it’s dangerous.
How many journalists cover la Vuelta? How many helicopters are involved?
I can not tell you the exact number of journalists. But nowadays, La Vuelta is a global event. We broadcast in 180 countries. We have 3 helicopters for the event and 2-3 more for TV.