Vuelta a España 2014

From: Alasdair Fotheringham
Country: Spain/UK

General: overall it was clear that the organization has made a big effort to improve working conditions all round. For that, our thanks.
Amongst those improved areas were: the press conference translation and the way press conferences were structured, accreditation,  parking at the finishes, the extended opening hours of the press rooms, and some, (but not all) elements of the route book. This comes on the back of 2013, when some areas had already improved a lot on other years, such as the press buffets.
However, there are some areas in dire need of improvement, most notably the Internet. If that alone could be improved, then the level of general contentment amongst journalists would sky-rocket.
On a much less significant level other questions, such as the shuttles to the finish, the quality of the sound in the video conferences, press parking at the starts, and the results sheets were either worse than previous years or still need improving.
That should not overshadow the big effort made to improve on the overall working conditions in the Vuelta, with – for example –  a very useful information sheet for all journalists on the first day.
As ever, the staff in general in the Vuelta’s organisation were extremely helpful, and friendly – an example to follow for some other races. And the collaboration between the Unipublic/ASO staff and the AIJC continues to work very well.
Information available on the website/accreditation: Very straightforward and clear in both cases. The website is now very well run, and accreditation has got much simpler and faster. As ever, picking up accreditation in the Vuelta start is extremely well run and there were no problems there.
Signposting to the Accreditation centre: Less clear than in 2013. Coming up from the south, we spent the best part of an hour driving around Jerez de La Frontera looking for it!
Race live-ticker: Excellent.

Routebook: Finally 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 have all been included. All of which is a big improvement.
The only problem is that there were, occasionally, some inaccuracies when it came to estimating distances from the finish to the press room. Please can we eliminate those in the future?
Working conditions at the start:  Good in general, although one start, in Priego de Cordoba, was simply so bad we had to leave without actually working there. Very helpful staff in general. However, it has been strongly suggested that the Vuelta follows the example of the Tour and has a press parking ‘avant’ and ‘arriere’, rather than just one parking area. This would be very useful and would save journalists from trying to drive past the signing on area with ten minutes to go – always a ‘fun’ experience.
Working conditions at the finish:Again, generally no problems, apart from the descent from La Zubia’s summit finish and for photographers at La Camperona.
However, two things could be improved. Photographers are unhappy that they are placed automatically in one long line for the podium ceremony, when they could be able to work from all sides and take more interesting pictures.
Also, at the Tour on the final stage in Paris, photographers who have been there for all three weeks are given automatic priority to choose positions over those who are only there for the last stage. Can this be changed?
On top of that, some photographers have complained that they regularly have problems with the Guardia Civil police being overly enthusiastic about insisting where they cannot work –  and this is in places, well away from the starts and finishes. Can this be sorted out, please?
Signposting in general: normally, and with the exception of reaching the accreditation centre at the start, excellent – the best of any of the three Grand Tours.
Parking at the finish: Much better than other years.
Pressroom:  The distances form the press room to the finishes were often considerable.  Some were too small, like in Ronda which was really difficult, and the lack of air conditioning in San Fernando in temperatures of over 40 degrees was difficult to handle. But always friendly.
However, yet again we did not receive any information on the opening times for the press room in the rest days.
The press room was – and again this is an improvement – open until later and the need for the press to work until late seems to be understood. This is particularly important with such late finishes in the Vuelta – sometimes very close to 6 pm.
Results: Already, one of the worst-run areas in the Vuelta and it got worse this year.
Results in printed format often did not appear in full form (even for just the stage win and overall classification).
As I have said on several occasions before, all we need is the general classification, stage classification, the (very, very useful)  ‘green sheet’ with all the different classifications, the doctors report, commissaires,report and communiques about important affairs: logistics, changes of times for start/finishes, and  so on.
The idea that these results can be available  on the Internet, as was suggested by the organisation, remains unacceptable for several clear reasons.
Firstly the Internet does not always work (see below). And secondly, when working to deadline, often you need a printed version of results because you don’t have time to look at the internet. Thirdly, often you need a printed version of results to have with you in the car for the next day.
Buses to the finish: many complaints about why the  shuttle bus has to leave so ridiculously early from the press room – at 1 pm, five hours before the race finishes. Also at La Camperona, the bus stopped three kilometres from the top!
This is an area which needs re-organising. The one plus was that we were warned well in advance what time they left. Can we please ensure, though, that when information is given out in the press room it’s always in all the different languages.
Translations: fine, even better than last year.
Internet: v very variable, but generally resoundingly bad. Awful in the first and second weeks, a slight improvement in the third. Has to be improved. This is a basic tool for the press and all too often we could not work with it. The fact that the Internet is free on the Vuelta is hardly good news – as it could be – when it barely works.
TIm de Waele, who contributed a lot to this report, suggests that there is one internet channel just for tv in the press room – otherwise they take up too much band width and the rest of us are in problems.
Distance Pressroom – Finish: generally, fine.
Distance Finish – Teams buses: No problem. At some stages they were a long way away, but that is only to be expected in mountain stages.
Information about the race in the Pressroom: Live ticker and tv. No complaints there.

Food or drinks at or near the Pressroom: really good. One of the really high points of the Vuelta, and particularly with a ‘second service’ by the buffet at six o’clock, much appreciated by photographers. An example for other races to follow.
Press conference: generally good and now with a much more efficient system of interviews in place, with translations, where possible, coming after the rider has left. This saves time and permits us to ask more questions – a big improvement.
Bringing the leader to the press conference for most days was also a big improvement.
However, occasionally the press conference was far too short, as was the case with Alberto Contador after the finish in Compostela. A scant quarter of an hour with the Vuelta winner in 2013, Chris Horner, in the stage 21 Leganes start was bad enough; eight and a half minutes with  Contador  is ridiculous. We appreciate it was very late (half past nine) and that this area may be beyond the Vuelta organisation’s control, but it has to be changed – somehow.
The worst thing was the sound quality in the press room of the videoconferences. This was poor at best and rendered the press conference incomprehensible at worst. The one plus this year was at least the video conferences worked every day.
Amount of professional and non-professional journalists: Not sure, to be honest.
Conclusions: across the board and in terms of organisation, the Vuelta works well, and in some areas it is an example to follow. On top of that, it has taken note of certain areas that needed improvement, like the route book or the late openings and has done something about it.  However, if there was one major change really needed urgently, it’s the Internet. Second on the list of priorities is the results sheets.
On a final note, our thanks to the Vuelta organisation for helping to hold the AIJC course for driving in races at Jerez de la Frontera.