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Maxim van Gils on his way to victory at the Ruta del Sol.

From five days to five kilometers: A single time trial decides the shortened Ruta del Sol

Maxim Van Gils bests Juan Ayuso and Antonio Tiberi to win the only stage – and with it, the overall title – at the farmer protest-shortened Ruta del Sol.

Maxim van Gils on his way to victory at the Ruta del Sol.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 16.02.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Racing at the Vuelta a Andalucía, aka the Ruta del Sol, officially got underway on Friday. It officially ended on Friday too. What was originally set to be a five-day 70th edition of the Spanish stage race, won last year by Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), was shortened to a single time trial of five kilometers due to the diversion of police resources amid farmer protests in the region.

As such, Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Dstny) is the “overall” winner of the 2.Pro-rated race thanks to his victory in Friday’s TT, in which Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) took runner-up honors 10 seconds down, with Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain Victorious) in third at 11 seconds back.

That bizarre result came about after organizers scrambled to come up with a solution to holding a race without the security personnel initially expected. The first two stages of the race were cancelled with a plan of holding a three-day event, but those plans were ultimately scrapped as well to leave just one (short) day of racing on Friday.

Race organizers of the Ruta del Sol hold an impromptu staff meeting to discuss the radical shortening of the race. They're standing in a circle under a RdS pop-up tent as director Joaquin Cuevas announces changes.
Ruta del Sol director Joaquin Cuevas (center) repeatedly attempted to accomodate a farmer protest, but a lack of security personnel for the race enclosure forced a dramatic shortening of the event.

Instead of the 161 km stage from Arjona to Pozoblanco that had been on the docket, the Ruta del Sol peloton took on a near-prologue length TT in Alcaudete on Friday, and organizers cancelled stages 4 and 5. As a time trial was not part of the original parcours, the race offered the unusual sight of riders contesting a TT on their road bikes, without any of the aero gear normally seen in races against the clock.

“After endless negotiations, despite having all the permits and meeting the requirements that the regulations establish, the government authorities have not been able to guarantee the assistance of the necessary law enforcement agencies to organize the event and to keep all of its participants safe for the next two stages,” the organization said in a statement.

The demonstrations in Spain that precipitated the unusual circumstances for the Ruta del Sol come amid a wave of protests by farmers across Europe. As the BBC reports, farmers driving tractors have taken to the roads to block traffic in Poland, Hungary, Spain, and Belgium in recent weeks in protest against a variety of issues affecting agriculture, including rising costs and European Union regulations.

How those protests and any knock-on effects they might have on police presence will impact the rest of the European cycling calendar remains to be seen. It is worth noting that farmers conducted a protest in San Remo, Italy last week. As anyone eyeing the cycling calendar will know, Milan-San Remo, the first Monument of the year, is one month away.

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