The Vuelta a España has become the latest cycling showpiece to launch a virtual version as it prepares to commence its delayed 2020 edition today (Tuesday).
The Vuelta, one of the sport’s three ‘Grand Tours’ alongside the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, takes on a new position in the calendar of October 20 to November 8 after its original dates of August 14 to September 6 were ruled out due to Covid-19.
The Unipublic agency, organiser of the Vuelta, has teamed up with Czech indoor cycling technology company Rouvy to launch ‘La Vuelta Virtual by Rouvy’. Through this initiative, the Vuelta’s new virtual partner will offer anyone the chance to compete on eight stages alongside the professionals during the actual event.
A ‘virtual grand finale’ comprising four stages of the virtual La Vuelta 20 will then be held from November 14-22. The Vuelta will conduct a social media poll asking fans to choose four stages from the toughest seven finales in this year’s race – La Laguna Negra, Col du Tourmalet, Alto de Moncalvillo, Alto de la Farrapona, Alto de l’Angliru, Mirador de Ézaro, and Alto de la Covatilla.
Participants will compete from home for prizes ranging from official Vuelta merchandise through to a trip to the Czech Republic, courtesy of Czech Tourism. The stages will be broadcast on Facebook and YouTube.
Petr Samek, chief executive of Rouvy, said: “I am sure that we are setting a new standard for cycling events when we deliver the closest realistic experience to every rider’s home. The feeling of being a part of the pro peloton from stage to stage was never so close before.”
In March, the Tour de Suisse and team-owned cycling promoter Velon teamed up with Rouvy to create the Digital Swiss 5, which consisted of five one-hour races taking place between April 22 and 26. The races were broadcast live by SRG SSR, the Swiss public-service broadcaster. This year’s edition of the Tour de Suisse was ultimately cancelled due to Covid-19.
In June, Amaury Sports Organisation joined forces with online cycling platform Zwift to launch the first-ever Virtual Tour de France, with professional races taking place in both the men’s and women’s classifications.