The itinerant caravan of the Volta

Salou (Tarragona), March 26 (EFE).- The Volta a Catalunya is a sporting event that moves around 800 people for seven days throughout a large part of the Catalan territory, including teams, UCI staff, organization, volunteers and the press, which this Sunday they will have completed almost 1,500 kilometers in a week adding all the displacements that the stages of the 101 edition have entailed.

The caravan of the Catalan round will have visited eleven towns from Monday to Sunday between the beginning and the end of the stage, but the figure increases taking into account that some overnight stays do not take place in the arrival or departure locations. Not all of them have the capacity to absorb the volume of people that the Volta carries.

Thus, it is common to see the cars, buses and trucks of the teams parked in front of the hotels – where it is essential that breakfast and dinner are included so that they can host the Volta – in different towns near the place of arrival of the stage or the start of the next day.

For example, on the night from Wednesday to Thursday, after the end of the stage in La Molina (Girona) and before the start in La Seu d’Urgell (Lleida), the Volta caravan was seen scattered around towns such as the La Molina, Puigcerdà (Girona), Bellver de Cerdanya (Lleida) and La Seu d’Urgell itself.

“The secret is easy: the populations have to have a comeback. Apart from advertising, if they fill the hotels they will be happy and we will be able to repeat. The problem is that there are populations that do not have hotels,” Santiago Castrillo, head of the organization of the Volta for two decades.

Unthinkable scenes are experienced in these accommodations in other sports that have been closed for a long time like a bunker, with football as a clear example.

During breakfast and dinner it is common to see organizers, race commissioners, journalists and cyclists eating at adjacent tables without anyone feeling uncomfortable, in a simple and pleasant atmosphere.

Each team moves about 20 people, a bus, three or four cars, a material truck and some also another truck to cook their own food.

For its part, the organization of the Volta, between volunteers and professionals, moves 107 people in this edition. Especially commendable is the work of the volunteers, among whom there are dozens of car and motorcycle drivers. Its function ranges from displacing journalists and photographers during the race to bringing a substitute car for the three doctors of La Volta in case one of them has a breakdown.

The Volta made a great qualitative leap in 2017, when it reached an agreement with the French company ASO, organizer of the Tour de France, to take care of commercial and television rights, which means, among other things, that the race broadcast in 190 countries on five continents. The contract ended in 2022 and has already been extended until 2026.

One of the novelties of this edition has been that Perpignan (France) was the end of the second stage and the beginning of the third, a request that the director of the Volta, Rubèn Peris, received from the Roussillon town hall after finishing the 100th edition.

“Logistically, it is more complicated to leave Catalonia because you have to make another device and fix everything with the gendarmes, in addition to the Mossos d’Esquadra. Therefore, it is a double effort in the organizational sense,” says Castrillo.

“But they have been super attentive and there has been no problem. Charming and cheerful people,” he adds.

In fact, in a previous meeting that La Volta had, he was positively surprised that no more and no less than 40 people attended.

“We only have praise for Perpignan, they have been compliant. They are used to the Tour de France and it shows. During the tour we did not find a single car, not even parked,” says the person in charge of the organization of the Volta.

Thus, the curiosity of seeing two police forces from different countries acting in the same event arose. In French territory, the Mossos d’Esquadra were in charge of encapsulating the platoon, but those who cut off the streets to traffic were the gendarmes, since the Catalan police do not have jurisdiction to carry out this action there.

This Sunday the 101st edition of the Volta will end and on Monday the 102nd will begin to be prepared. “The following year’s Volta begins to be built the day after the previous one is finished,” says Castrillo.

“The first thing that is done is to decide the departure and arrival populations of the stages. At this time it is the population that requests it,” he adds.

But many times problems arise that make it impossible for the wish to come true. “The route lasts seven days and it is not possible to reach all parts of Catalonia. And there are some towns that have to be ruled out as a place of arrival because there is no nearby departure for the next day,” he admits.

Be that as it may, “the route of the Volta is defined in September of the previous year.” That is, six months in advance of the holding of the test.

In addition to closing the places of arrival and departure, an arduous task must be carried out to specify the route that will unite them. “When we ask for traffic permits beforehand, we have already done preliminary work, which is to write to all the towns through which we want the stage to pass. We ask them if it is a problem for them. And then we have to negotiate the intermediate sprints,” he points out. .

The Volta caravan does not stop moving throughout the year so that the race remains a test marked in red on the spring calendar of the UCI World Tour.

Sergio Escudero

(c) EFE Agency