Vuelta a España 2013

From: Alasdair Fotheringham (Reuters/Cyclingnews.com)
Country: Spain/UK

  1. General: a very mixed bag. Some elements of working on a Grand Tour like the Vuelta can easily have been improved, others are in dire need of sorting out and have got worse (the wifi!) compared to previous years , some like the press buffets have been a big improvement on other years and yet others do not need changing at all because they were very good. The Vuelta a España’s transfers this year were some of the longest in its history (I personally drove more than 5,500 kilometers excluding the drive to the start in Galicia and from the finish in Madrid) which made it one of the toughest three week races I have covered in more than 20 years as a cycling journalist.
  2. Logically, this must have made it very tough from a logistic point of view for the race organisers and we fully appreciated their efforts. Nobody – riders, journalists, organisers or team support staff – had it easy with such long distances.
  3. However, press releases indicating the time a press room is open on a rest day is not difficult to sort out, for example, and did not happen.
  4. Information available on the website/accreditation: some parts were really good, like the main website and the possibility, a first, to download the entire routebook as a pdf. However, the failure to clarify that the journalists wishing to accredit themselves for the Vuelta needed to go is http://acreditaciones.unipublic.es not www.lavuelta.com. was easily rectified – and it wasn’t, leading to a lot of un-necessary stress for some journalists.
  5. That said, actually getting the accreditation handed over at the start in Galicia was fast, straightforward and very helpful – something that was true about all of Unipublic’s staff throughout the race.
  6. Signposting to the Accreditation centre: Excellent.
  7. Race live-ticker: Excellent, English sometimes not as quick as the Spanish, but more than sufficient to work with.
  8. Routebook: For several years I have repeatedly asked that the routebook include 1. the distance from the finish to the team buses 2. the distance from the finish to the press room 3. the distance from the ‘signing on’ to the buses. Can we PLEASE get this included? It makes a huge difference.
  9. Working conditions at the start: Absolutely fine. Helpful staff.
  10. Working conditions at the finish:Again, no problems. Much better than other years, according to photographers.
  11. Signposting in general: normally, and with the exception of Caceres where they disappeared (stolen?) close to the press room, excellent – the best of any of the three Grand Tours.
  12. Parking at the finish: variable. Sometimes good, and very occasionally – as at Casteldefels – a disaster. The announcement that the press car park was full at 3 pm and that we would have to walk, partly uphill, and a considerable distance in 30 degree heat (with appalling directions, for once, to the press room and through crowds of noisy fans) was badly done. That they had little ‘navettes’ for the last 300 metres as opposed to the full distance only made it more annoying.
  13. Pressroom: The distances form the press room to the finishes were often considerable. Some were too small, like in Formigal. But always friendly.
  14. But the worst thing was after the finish to Hazallanas in Andalusia where at 8PM we were told that the press room would be closing at 8.30 PM No advance warning, no alternatives, nothing. If we know this the day before or even in the middle of the stage then we can do something about it. The fact that the press staff had left on a plane for Zaragoza is not acceptable. A simple press release would have resolved this.
  15. The same situation was reported by photographers after the team presentation, where the press room was closed – again, at a critical time, and with no advance warning. And finally on the rest days, there was no indication of opening/closing times or even reminders of where they would be.
  16. Results: sometimes slow to the point where two hours after the finish in Madrid they still hadn’t appeared but normally fine.
  17. However, as I have said before: the large, large majority of journalists do not need all the pieces of paper with all the vast numbers of different classifications that Unipublic staff could be better employed not handing out and which simply clutter up the already packed work desks.
  18. All we need is the general classification, stage classifciation, the (very, very useful) ‘green sheet’ with all the different classifications, the doctors report, commissaires,report and communiques about important affairs: logistis, changes of times for start/finishes, and so on.
  19. Buses to the finish: these communiques about the press buses and times to the finishes with difficult access were completely lacking until week three. And why do they have buses leave so early, at 3 pm or earlier, for a six pm finish?
  20. This reached the point where I saw foreign journalists missing the bus completely because they did not have the information.
  21. Translations: fine.
  22. Internet: very, very variable. Excellent to start with, appalling in the second and a little better in the third. We must say, as ever, that the efforts of the staff to resolve these problems were considerable. But should these problems have existed in the first place?
  23. Distance Pressroom – Finish: In four words: generally far too far. However, I appreciated this may be beyond the organiser’s control.
  24. Distance Finish – Teams buses: No problem.
  25. Information about the race in the Pressroom: Live ticker and tv. No complaints there.
  26. Results: very variable. The last day at Madrid, when I left two hours after the race had finished, we still hadn’t seen an official classification.
  27. Food or drinks at or near the Pressroom: really good. A big, not to say massive, improvement on previous years in the buffets that were available most days. Free water a plus, but we need more of it, please.
  28. Press conference: generally good but sometimes far too short and the final press conference for the winner, held on the morning of the last day was – and this is being polite – insufficient in all ways. 13 minutes and four questions is not enough. And whilst logistically this was very difficult after the Angliru the night before to organise, it was not impossible. Instead we had to go to the start in Leganes on the Sunday morning for a press conference that was stopped in less than 15 minutes.
  29. Amount of professional and non-professional journalists: Not sure, to be honest.
  30. Conclusions: across the board, the impression I have from a large number of journalists is that the ‘written press’ had a difficult time and although some areas of organisation were excellent, others were poor. That said, we appreciate all the help that was received and the staff who were present in the press room did an excellent job in often difficult conditions.
  31. We fully appreciate that the logistics of organising a Tour where drives were averaging 300 kilometres a day and often on poor roads was no joke. But some areas, such as the route book, can easily be improved. As has been found in other races, if working conditions are poor, then journalists will reflect they are better off covering the race from the comfort of their offices, and the coverage for the race is subsequently far less rich. The ball, there, is in the organiser’s court.