Catalonia's road bicycle tour Director: “Our competition is at the highest level of world cycling”
The Tour of Catalonia, known as ‘La Volta’, was born in 1911 and is the 3rd oldest cycling competition in the world, just behind the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. Its Director, Rubèn Peris, is proud of the event and says that “‘La Volta’ is something bigger than a race” and is an ambassador for showing Catalonia to the rest of the world, included in the UCI World Tour calendar. From the 23rd to the 29th of March, this competition will hold its 95th edition with the presence of some of the best riders in the world such as Chris Froome, Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodríguez and Alberto Contador. The CNA interviewed Peris a few days before the start of the race, which "has reached an extremely high level and which is always co-ordinated by amateurs", showing "how strong the associations’ network in Catalonia is".
Barcelona (CNA).- In sporting terms, Catalonia is much more than football and basketball. The country has other sporting passions and ‘La Volta’ is the flagship of Catalan cycling. This event was born in 1911 and is the 3rd oldest bicycle race in the world, just behind the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. ‘La Volta’ is not only a competition, but also an important way to show Catalonia all over the world. Its Director, Rubèn Peris, is proud of the event and says that “‘La Volta’ is something bigger than a race”. From the 23rd to the 29th of March, this competition will celebrate its 95th edition with the presence of some of the best riders in the world such as Chris Froome, Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodríguez and Alberto Contador.
How would you describe ‘La Volta’?
It is something bigger than a bicycle race. ‘La Volta’ belongs to Catalan associations and sports networks. It is a first-class event with more than 100 years of history. It started in 1911 and since then has been organised by volunteers and non-professional people. ‘La Volta’ has reached an extremely high level and has always been co-ordinated by amateurs. This fact shows how strong the associations’ network in Catalonia is. In Catalonia, there are lots of organisations who set up major events thanks to volunteers that collaborate outside of office hours and ‘La Volta’ is a good example of this. For this reason, this competition is something bigger than a sporting event. We can see it every time we go around Catalonia, with people taking to the roads, with the help of the City Halls, the Provincial Councils and the Catalan Government.
‘La Volta’ is organised by amateurs but the race is included in the UCI World Tour 2015 calendar, correct?
Our competition is at the highest level of world cycling. We are on the same calendar as the Tour de France but in our case all the people who are working to make this event possible are amateurs. The organisation is composed of seven people throughout the year, but during ‘La Volta’ we have more than 100 volunteers.
Do you have problems organising the race if you are all amateurs?
No, the only handicap is that we have to take hours out of our work schedule, but this fact does not affect the quality of the race.
How do you survive in the UCI World Tour sharing a calendar with the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España?
‘La Volta’ was historically held in September. When the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) modified the calendar and moved the Vuelta de España to September, our event had to move to survive and compete at the highest cycling stage. ‘La Volta’ has been held in June, in May and recently we have moved to March. Right now, I think we have excellent dates, it works out for us, but we are waiting because in 2017, UCI will make changes once again in the cycling world and we will have to see how the calendar will evolve. Hopefully, we will be able to continue to have it in March.
Does the prestige of the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia harm other races in the calendar?
I think so, but we can do nothing. We depend on what the UCI says. It is clear that the Tour de France will not be moved, and if the Tour de France will not move, nor will the Giro d’Italia.
How much money do you need to organise ‘La Volta’?
We need around €1.4 million. ‘La Volta’ is financed first of all by the money we receive from the City Halls where we finish the stages, secondly by subsidies from the Catalan Government and the Provincial Councils, and then by private companies who sponsor prizes or parts of ‘La Volta’.
Have you suffered from the economic recession?
Yes, very much. But thanks to various institutions and our efforts, we have been able to look forward.
What can ‘La Volta’ learn from other important bicycle races?
We have a financing problem but we work hard and try to organise the race the best way we can. If we had more cash, we could do more things or do them different. By the way, I am pleased with the money we receive, I have no complaints, and with all the people who come to ‘La Volta’. I think we organise a good race.
And what could the other races learn from ‘La Volta’?
Everybody has to learn from everybody. I always see some interesting things in other races, big or small, that I think that I could implement at ‘La Volta’. I do not want to give lessons; I like to learn from each one. Our aim is to allow cycling to move forward, to forget about the past, and to think about the future.
‘La Volta’ is an effective way of showing Catalonia to the rest of the world, isn’t it?
I totally agree. Last year, we broadcast pictures of ‘La Volta’ to over 160 countries. We are selling Catalonia, selling the country, selling the brand around the world. We are showing the Catalan idiosyncrasy, land, tourism, the organisers, our personality, and our own police. All these details make ‘La Volta’ different. Foreigners notice that we have our own language, our own Parliament, our own Government, our own police, and our own personality. ‘La Volta’ is very helpful to show Catalonia to the outside world.
Is ‘La Volta’ a good test for riders and teams for the Giro, Tour and Vuelta?
It is the first important race on the UCI World Tour calendar. ‘La Volta’ gives big points for the UCI World Tour ranking and I think our event is a test because riders come here to compete, to work, to win, to get some points…they don’t come just to participate, they come to win. The fact that it is in March is helpful for us. The only disadvantage is the climate: we are always anxious to see if we will have good weather or not.
The best riders have participated in ‘La Volta’ in recent years. Does this help to get the attention of the media and sponsors?
Absolutely. For example, last year there was a lot of people on the roads. I noticed a lot of people both at the start of the stages and during the route. Let us not fool ourselves, if we have the best riders in ‘La Volta’ it helps a lot. When we have the best, the media talks about the race and we have greater reverb internationally.
What can we expect from ‘La Volta’ 2015?
This year we will have a deluxe participation, with the best riders and teams. The fact that ‘La Volta’ is on the UCI World Tour calendar forces the 17 best teams to come. And as for the route, I think we have well-balanced stages, with only one mountain day but with some mountain stretches that could make a substantial difference. We want the riders to work and to strive hard to win.
And what do you think about the future of ‘La Volta’?
I am optimistic. This year we have noticed some improvements and I think that ‘La Volta’ will survive for many more years to come.