Why Škoda Cars Are Integral to La Vuelta a España

By We Love Cycling

After a few bumpy rides since 2020, the famed La Vuelta is once again taking place in Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, this time between 19th August and 11th September 2022. As the last Grand Tour of this season, the 77th year of this historic road race is poised to bring spectacular action we all learned to look forward to. If you will be watching the approximately 190 riders gather at the starting line in Utrecht on the day of the race’s launch, you might notice the sheer magnitude of the event – all the team, management and organisational crews, supported by a large fleet of Škoda vehicles. Let’s recap the cars’ roles in La Vuelta.

Excellent logistics are vital due to the challenging parkour (seven mountain stages, four hilly stages, two stages with high-altitude finishes, and so on) as the riders are bound to need someone to watch their backs – and to keep pace with them while doing it. All in all, approximately 125 Škodas will service the Vuelta this year, either directly on the parkour or as supply or sponsor vehicles covering every need imaginable. The models one could encounter are mostly the Škoda ENYAQ iV, the SUPERB Berline L&K, the OCTAVIA Combi Business and Style, and a few others.

The Race Director’s Red Car

The fully electric Velvet Red Škoda ENYAQ iV is the Leading Car at the 2022 La Vuelta. This honoured role previously belonged to the Škoda SUPERB iV, a reliable model that will still be present at this year’s race in great numbers. Obviously, this particular car’s role is absolutely essential for the safe unfolding of the race, as it carries Race Director Javier Guillén, who uses it as a mobile command centre. Thanks to this ENYAQ iV’s special adaptations such as a two-way radio connected to six outside antennas and a sizeable retractable sunroof, Guillén is able to keep ahead of all occurrences, brief his Race Marshals and communicate with all team cars.

Javier Guillén
La Vuelta’s race director Javier Guillén overlooking La Vuelta from Škoda ENYAQ iV. ©️BaixauliStudio

Furthermore, this ENYAQ iV is fitted with the modular electrification toolkit (MEB) with a battery pack ranging from 55 kWh to 82 kWh and boasting a single charge of up to 510 km. This allows the vehicle to operate smoothly and in perfect silence so it can weave seamlessly among other cars and riders.

The Race Marshals’s cars

The closest two cooperatives of the Race Director, the Technical Director and one Race Marshal, will also use the Škoda ENYAQ iV in the famed red shade. All in all, the Velvet Red paint job is reserved for the cars of the highest-ranking officials of the race so they are easily recognisable and also features on several SUPERB iV models. The roles of the marshals are indispensable – they help Mr. Guillén to stay on top of everything, alert him in case of urgencies, and are able to push his orders through to be executed faster.

The SUPERB iVs are hybrid cars, meaning they feature both the conventional supercharged 1.4 TSI engine and an electric engine, adding some extra 115 horses to the output. This can get the crew anywhere they need to be efficiently and quickly, which is a common need in a race of such a size.

Team and support cars

Mavic neutral car
The Shimano neutral car at the 2021 La Vuelta. © Profimedia

As in other Grand Tours, the Škoda team and support cars, primarily Škoda OCTAVIA Combis and Škoda SUBERBs, fitted with spare bikes, parts, kits, raincoats, and refreshments, stay close to the riders should they need assistance or a bidon. As the vehicles cover approximately half a million kilometres during each La Vuelta, it’s crucial that they’re reliable, agile, and customisable. And as not a single mechanical failure was reported during the 11 years since Škoda started supplying them, we can confidently say that things have been working out well in that regard. But there is one notable switch we have already seen at the Tour de France – the neutral support vehicles changed coats from bright yellow to sky-like blue. The force behind the change is the fact that Shimano, the renowned bike component supplier, took over the role from Mavic.

The role of the neutral support vehicle is a noble one in Grand Tours and we can credit them with more than a handful of heroic feats when saving the day for various riders, such as Jens Voigt or Chris Froome. Mr. Guillén himself highlighted the importance of reliable race assistance last year: “The different pieces that make up the gearing of a grand tour have to work like a clock and the technical assistance to the riders is, without a doubt, one of those key pieces. For us, it is fundamental to benefit from the professionalism and experience of a company like Shimano, with whom we have more than 20 years of impeccable work in top-level races”.

Will you be watching the La Vuelta a España? If so, who will you be rooting for? Let us know!