The Vuelta a España wants to race through a football stadium while a match is on

Can't see anything that could go wrong with this.

by Jonny Long

photography by Getty Images

There is a haphazardness to cycling that gives the sport its charm. Literally anything could occur between kilometre zero and the finish line, and it often does.

Take the recent Giro d’Italia, which managed to encompass both a man dressed up as a chef giving out pineapples on a climb and the ferry off Sicily having to turn back around because they’d forgotten the day’s stage winner Arnaud Démare.

And now the Vuelta a España is looking to turn things up a notch with an innovation that can surely only go wrong.

Unipublic, the organisers of the Spanish Grand Tour, want the Vuelta peloton to pass through a football stadium mid-match during the 15-minute break at halftime. Yes, you read that correctly.

This is according to Spanish newspaper Marca, which reports the idea could happen as soon as this year’s race and if not could be saved for future editions. Either way, looks like they’re dead set on it.

The passage would see the peloton ride through La Liga club Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano on the final stage 21 on Sunday September 11.

This would take place mid-stage, which will surely require a tight controlling of the speed of the bunch as they make their way along the 100.5 km route for the processional stage from Las Rozas to Madrid. Any earlier or later and you could see Primož Roglič felled by Antoine Griezmann booting the ball out of play as 70,000 Spanish football fans look on.

This isn’t the first time the Vuelta has incorporated football, the nation’s most popular sport, into their race. In 2019 the riders set off from Atletico Bilbao’s San Mamés stadium, signing on for the day’s stage before completing a lap of the empty pitch. Local riders and fans of the club, Omar Fraile, Jonathan Lastra and Mikel Bizkarra, all wore replica shirts to mark the occasion.

Before that, in 2002, the Spanish Grand Tour concluded with a stage 21 time trial that finished inside Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu.

Stay weird, La Vuelta, and let’s just hope a football fan doesn’t antagonise someone like Mark Cavendish as he makes his way around the pitch causing an Eric Cantona-esque kung fu kick episode.

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