The Vuelta Espana of 2017 chose Nimes, in France, as it’s starting point.
As a rule, the Vuelta has tended to avoid the shenanigans of starting the race in another country. In contrast to the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, who have no qualms whatsoever about hawking their wares to the highest bidder.
For all concerned, it’s a marketing exercise.
As a fan of bike racing (rather than marketing) sometimes this geographical jiggery-pokery works, and sometimes it feels like a false start.
The Giro d’Italia of 2016 springs to mind. The race spent three days in the Netherlands and – nothing against the Netherlands – but I did rather crave the unadulterated Italian-ness of the Giro whilst watching the riders rattling through northern Europe for three days.
In contrast, as someone who lives five miles from the border of Yorkshire here in the north of England, I am fully in favour of the race spending three days in my neck-of-the-woods every year. In fact, scrap Yorkshire, and move the whole shebang over here to Lancashire.
For the riders, it’ll be all round to mine for beers the night before, Lancashire hotpot and pickled cabbage served up at the mid-race feed stations, and we’ll even take them up Jubilee Tower and put on a real show for the watching world.
The Galibier and the Tourmalet are all very well, but you try and set a sustainable rhythm up the three kilometres of Jubilee Tower on a blustery Monday afternoon.
We’re talking men-from-the-boys stuff.
Anyway, I digress.
This year the Vuelta Espana visits France for the first time, with a team time trial around the historic city of Nimes (sometimes referred to as the Rome of France, I’m told).
Now, first of all: BRAVO! We don’t see enough team time trials; essentially, the pure race-of-truth against the clock, with the added jeopardy that your team-mates could really let you down.
Nimes is a hot, Mediterranean city, which fits well with the parched parcours of the Vuelta. But France? Is that not a bit…well…incestuous?
Should the Grand Tours really be entering each other’s territory (if you’ll forgive the euphemism)?
Suppose the Vuelta started in Nimes, the Tour departed from Turin, and the Giro rolled out from Girona. Would that not be akin to inter-breeding? Or cross-contamination?
Where would it all end?
One, single, nine week-long Tour d’Europe?
A nine-day Grand Depart in the north of England, followed by 170 pro-cyclists following Team Sky around France, Italy, and Spain for 10,000 kilometres?
That could get tedious.
(Image: By Wolfgang Staudt from Saarbruecken, Germany [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)