“Safer than home”: final spurt for the vuelta bubble

For many spaniards, this contrast must seem like sheer mockery.

While the police in society monitors whether strict corona measures such as nighttime curfews or the sealing off of entire territories are being observed, the officers simultaneously escort a 5700-person convoy across the country day after day. The reason is a bicycle race, the vuelta a espana. The cycling scene is currently on the home stretch of its three-month emergency calendar. Six more stages to madrid, then the worst would be over for the financially strapped racing stables.

But the glaring contradiction is also causing discontent and annoyance among the population. In regional newspapers, burgers are quoted with clear words such as "in our country, there is fear of corona. But the vuelta may come" quoted. Many residents, especially in the stage towns, do not understand why a bicycle race can continue when bars, restaurants and even local town halls have to close down in order to cope with the highest infection figures of the corona pandemic so far.

But the vuelta rolls on. And if the test series on the second rest day turns out accordingly, not much stands in the way of the six-day final spurt starting this tuesday. "We're planning all the way to madrid," said race director javier guillen. He is under pressure after tour de france and giro d'italia were able to finish their tours despite minor problems and positive corona tests.

The drivers also plead for a continuation. "I still have a chance for a real stage victory. This is the stage in madrid," pascal ackermann told dpa. The german sprinter had a victory on the 9. Stage was awarded later, but that is not enough for him. "This was not a real victory, in a victory I would also like to cross the finish line first."

Ackermann is not afraid of catching the disease in the corona hotspot of spain. "I was told we are safer here than at home. At home they were met with people. Here you are only in your bubble."Sprinter rival and compatriot max kanter says he also feels safe. Shielded from the environment, the pros pedal through the troubled country. The image of a bubble moving through a country has never been truer than here.

But even the vuelta is not without spectators. When the 12. As the first leg of the tour began, people on balconies around the marketplace applauded spontaneously. There were also sparse crowds on the climbs and in the finish towns – despite the official exclusion of spectators. But there were only a few dozens of cycling fans who considered their trips to the alto de la farrapona and the angliru as a "necessary movement".

Meanwhile, after the cycling marathon, teams are already worrying about next year's race. In 2021, races will still have to be held under pandemic conditions, with travel restrictions and quarantine orders complicating the overall situation. "Because of the cancelled races, we took in several hundred thousand euros less in entry fees," said bora-hansgrohe team boss ralph denk. It is highly questionable whether this situation will improve in 2021. The tour down under was cancelled on sunday as the first race for next year without replacement.

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