Vuelta a España 2015

From: Alasdair Fotheringham
Country: Spain/UK
General: for those working as a journalist on the Vuelta there have been some distinct improvements over the last few years, and in general it’s now a fairly straightforward experience. This was a tough Vuelta to handle, however: long transfers and later finishes with complicated access for those wishing to go to the finish itself. There were good working conditions in general, but (and it is a big ‘but’) some areas definitely remain in need of improving.

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 than a few years ago. However there is one major drawback to the otherwise very good website: why on earth has the sector which showed the history of La Vuelta now disappeared?  Promises  to the AIJC that it would be restored were not fulfilled. It is a goldmine of information for those seeking to know more about the race and its background. Please can this sector of the Vuelta history come back online as soon as possible and in exactly the same format as it was before?
Signposting to the Accreditation centre: Good when you got close by but not before, which didn’t help much. This is the second year it’s been poor.

Race live-ticker: Excellent. Plenty of information.

Routebook: Initially it wasn’t clear we would actually get a route book!! Attempts by one member of the Vuelta organisation at the start of the race to give journalists maps instead of a route book were thankfully very shortlived, but this is one ‘brainwave’ that cannot be repeated. Journalists who arrived in the second part of the Vuelta only received the maps instead of a road book. That’s not good!
Once we were provided with them, in general no complaints, although more clearly marked alternative routes would be good.

Accreditation: there was a long queue in Marbella but it seemed to be resolved fairly quickly. Staff were friendly as ever and seemed to know what they were doing.
Working conditions at the start:  Good in general, with very helpful and well-organised staff for parking. although as we have suggested on numerous occasions in the past, the time has surely come when the Vuelta  regularly organises a ‘press avant’ and a press ‘arriere’, rather than sometimes having one and sometimes not, depending on the layout of the start as was the case.  Being reprimanded by the Vuelta press staff for leaving close to the start time and driving through the start area, as happened to me on one stage, only makes this more annoying….Riders arrive later and later for signing on etc and it is therefore necessary to stay at starts as late as possible. A press avant means we are out of the way of the start area. What’s to lose?

Working conditions at the finish: Again, generally no problems, although the tendency for soigneurs to take over the journalists tv ‘pen’ could be resolved a little better.
The “press conference” at the team presentation did not work out and the organisation did not provide a satisfactory solution when, at the finish of the last stage of the second week, race leader Joaquim Rodriguez went off to the helicopter transfer without doing a press conference. On the other hand, they made a real effort to bring other top names to the press conferences absolutely every other day, most notably asking if we wishes to interview John Degenkolb on the last day when the race was on the point of ending, and this was appreciated.
Signposting in general: normally, and with the dishonourable exception of reaching the accreditation centre at the start, excellent. Once again and for another year running, by far the best of  the three Grand Tours.

Parking at the finish: Excellent.

Pressroom: Some press rooms (Madrid, Fuente del Chivo, Cumbre del Sol and in almost all the last week (the mass arrival of Dutch journalists made a big difference) were way too small.
However, the rest of them were fine and thankfully mostly with air conditioning and enough space/cables/toilets. There is a definite need, though, for a lot more televisions, and  for keeping noise levels lower on occasion
On the downside, The distances form the press room to the finishes were often considerable, making going to the finish a difficult choice. Yet again we did not receive any  emailed information on the opening times for the press room in the rest days. . It would also help if there was some kind of co-ordination of press conference times on rest days.
Very friendly, cooperative staff, who were willing to help out with extra information  for journalists (commissaires and medical reports, etc) via email when requested. But this should be automatically provided to everybody.
Results: Apart from a brief improvement in the last week, this was  – for the third year running – an area which really brings the Vuelta down. Results were available on the Internet, but journalists and photographers need regularly produced and distributed results sheets in paper format. On one of the few occasions they were distributed, half the names were not readable.
Can we please improve on the results system next year? I said last year that no other WorldTour event I have been to, not even those with severe budget restrictions, has such a poor “paper results” service. And this year it was even worse!

Buses to the finish: an improvement on 2014, when some buses left at 1pm, this time they were leaving at 3 pm. But the information about leaving times and so on needs to be sent out in email format.

Translations: excellent, and well organised in the press conferences, and for some crucial announcements like Nibali’s expulsion. Other races take note.
Internet: Incomparably better than in 2014, although it could hardly have been worse…a few disastrous early days in the first week in terms of ‘connectivity’ were then followed by a big improvement and  the internet then worked well, and fast, throughout. Long may it continue like that.

Distance Pressroom – Finish: generally, acceptable except for in the mountain stages, when we could have been at another race the distances were so far. There were two days that really stood out as not being well organised – that of Cumbres del Sol where the shuttle disappeared and again at Sierra Nevada.

Distance Finish – Teams buses: No problem in general. At some stages they were a long way away, but that is mainly beyond the organisers’ control.
Information about the race in the Pressroom: Live ticker and tv. No complaints there, although a lot more tvs would have been a good idea.
Food or drinks at or near the Pressroom: as ever  really good, and with the exceptional of Alto Campoo, which stood out for being very poor. Overall the catering is one of the high points of the Vuelta, and particularly with a ‘second service’ at six o’clock, much appreciated by photographers. An example for other races to follow.
Press conference: with the exception of the absence of Rodriguez after the Hermita  stage well run.  Bringing the leader to the press conference for most days was good. The final press conference – and this was a big improvement compared to 2013 and 2014  – was long enough and took place on the Saturday evening. Given how late the stage finished on the Sunday, this worked well.
Amount of professional and non-professional journalists: Yet again, too many journalists who are not dedicated professionals continue to be let into the race.
Conclusions: across the board and in terms of organisation, the Vuelta works well, sometimes very well, and in some areas it is an example to follow. However, if there are two major changes really needed urgently, one is it’s the printing out of results and the communiques, and this is the third year we’ve complained about it and the other is the number of tvs in the press room.