The mayor of Torrevieja, José Manuel Dolón, has said that following the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, a meeting was held by the City Council and the local police forces, to discuss the security for Stage 9 of la Vuelta de España, which started in Campoamor and was to pass along the Torrevieja seafront on Sunday.
The discussions centred on the number of officers who would need to be committed to the race as the riders cycled through town centre.
The mayor said that 23 agents had been appointed to cover the event, stating also that the Chief of Police felt he needed a minimum of 53 officers to provide adequate security at the many different crossroads and junctions, as the cyclists raced out toward La Mata and Guardamar.
As a result of the concerns, he took the decision to re-route the stage along the N-332 which he said enabled the police to carry on with their ordinary and essential services, of providing security for members of the public.
However the president of the Provincial Council, César Sánchez (PP) said that he was ‘outraged’ at the mayor, who he accused of boycotting the Vuelta stage saying that he has known of the Torrevieja commitment for almost 12 months. He said that the decision was “exclusively political and made from hatred, malice and political sectarianism that is characteristic of José Manuel Dolón.”
And to add even more kindling to the controversy, on Saturday, Torrevieja’s Local Police Chief, Óscar Cartón, said that, in his opinion, police could have given security guarantees to the race. “From my point of view,” said the Police Inspector, “I think there were enough policemen, who, with support from Civil Protection and La Vuelta organization themselves, could have managed quite well. However the final decision was not a police matter.”
The Provincial Deputy for Tourism, Eduardo Dolón, said that the mayor’s decision was a great opportunity lost for the city, from the point of view of its promotion, as Torrevieja would no longer be able to benefit from the aerial images provided by the television coverage which would have featured it’s wonderful beaches across the world, as well as the lagoon of Torrevieja, the International Auditorium, the Sports City, the Water park and the natural park of La Mata.
Meanwhile, despite the political fallout in Torrevieja, La Vuelta still rolled in to Campoamor on Saturday evening as organisers, teams and the media began to arrive with their caravans, workshops and mobile studios.
As could clearly be seen, the logistical effort of moving La Vuelta between stages is a really mammoth task, befitting of the race it hosts. For the eighth consecutive year it is being transported around the country by the Azkar DACHSER Group which is responsible for most of the infrastructure including commentary boxes, media offices, entertainment suites, timing offices, grandstands and ceremony platforms.
Setting all this up saw the work getting underway at 5:30am on Sunday morning, a task which is said by many to be as grueling as the race itself.
For the riders however the day got underway rather later with teams arriving at the start point by mid-morning. Following the team meetings, when the day’s strategy was hashed out, most cyclists then took about 1.5 hours to get kitted up, head over to the sign on caravan, talk to some fans, and get themselves mentally prepared for the stage.
Going into the race, with stage 9 heading north to Cumbre del Sol, close to Benitachell, Chris Froome (Team Sky) had tightened his grip on the leaders red jersey, with a show of strength during Saturday’s stage eight, opening up a 28 second gap on his nearest rival, Columbia’s Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott).
As he disembarked from the team coach, Froome took pleasure in chatting to some of the hundred or so fans that had gathered around the Team Sky nerve centre. But he was then quickly on his way down to the start point adjacent to Campoamor beach
And then down to business as the teams headed off up an early incline behind the pace car with Froome at the front, no doubt contemplating the 150km to Benitachell, prior to Monday’s very welcome rest day.
But the stage couldn’t have gone any better for the race leader as he attacked with 500m to go and held off Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), with a final kick at the 100m point, to win at La Cumbre del Sol!
The stage win extends his lead over the Columbian, Chaves, the only rider within a minute of Froome, to 36 seconds and was an ideal way to go into Monday’s rest day.
Following the day off, La Vuelta continues on Tuesday in the Murcia Province where stage 10 will take the cyclists from Caravaca to El Pozo.
Briton Chris Froome, who recently won the Tour de France for the third time, is trying to become the first rider to do the double of La Vuelta and the Tour de France in the same year since Bernard Hinault back in 1973.