Organisers Unipublic will not be replacing the first three stages of the 2020 Vuelta a Espana which were cancelled yesterday, meaning this edition will be the first since 1985 with fewer than 21 stages.
The trio of stages were due to take place in the Dutch regions of Utrecht and North Brabant.
The decision was made due to the forced reorganisation of the 2020 calendar as well as the fact that the Dutch government has prohibited sporting events until September 1.
In 1985, when Spain’s Pedro Delgado defeated Britain’s Robert Millar in dramatic fashion, the race comprised 19 stages over a total distance of 3 474km. Before the culling of the first three stages, the 2020 race would have been contested over 3 245km.
With the new Grand Depart in Irun, it will be the first time since Unipublic took over the reins in 1979 that the Vuelta will start in the Basque Country. In 1961, it started in San Sebastian with a team time-trial.
“Obviously, when you design the race, you hope to never have to make changes of this magnitude, but we have to be sensible with the current situation,” said Vuelta director Javier Guillen.
“We have to accept that it is very difficult to replace an official departure at this late stage, given all the institutional and logistic planning that it involves.”
He hoped that the “unprecedented health crisis” would be resolved soon so that life could return to normal for everyone including the Vuelta, which will return to its traditional format of 21 stages with two rest days in 2021.
The 2020 edition was originally scheduled to take place from August 14 to September 6, but organisers have yet to release the new dates.