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Vuelta a España
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History

Written by Wicky (2005-03-01 00:00)
Translated by DZI (2006-02-11 00:00:00)

The official name for the Tour of Spain is Vuelta a España and is also the youngest Grand Tour of the three. In 1935, Clemente Lopez Doriga starts off with a new cycling event on behalf of the Diario Internacionales newspaper as the Spanish answer to the Italian and French counterparts.

A lot of press coverage was given to the 1935 edition, but it never became the spectacle it was supposed to be. On the 29th of april, only 50 cyclists get themselves ready for a daunting journey. This year the cyclists will have to complete 3416 kilometres divided into 14 stages, taking just 16 days to get to Madrid. After an interesting battle, Belgian Gustaaf Deloor comes out on top and takes the first victory. The second edition through Spain is also won by him, both times without the well known cyclists of those days being present.

The following years proved difficult for the organisers. Apart from isolated events, wars and several other problems prevented the Vuelta from taking place. From 1955 onwards, the organisation of the race is finally reliable and the Tour through Spain is held every year since. The route the riders are facing in Spain is spectacular to say the least, yet this Grand Tour is not as popular as the other two. Because this Tour is now organised at the beginning of fall, most riders use the race as a warm-up to the World Championships, or to make up for an otherwise bad season. Before the change on the calendar (1990) the Spanish had to compete with the Italians, a fight which was usually lost. Most cyclists preferred the Italian landscape over the Spanish peninsula.

Even the change on the calendar couldn’t provide this race with an abundance of champions and big names. The leaderboard is still dominated by the Spanish riders, but compared to the Italian counterpart the domination is not that great. Despite a great cycling culture in Spain, the country hasn’t produced the same kind of champions like Italy, who’s big champions did win many titles in the Giro. Best examples are probably the great Bahamontes and Indurain. Neither of them managed to get the Vuelta a España on their palmares.

You might get the impression that this crown of the Spanish “cyclisme” is the lesser race of the three Grand Tours. You would be badly mistaken in thinking so. The race itself is full of spectacle and tension usually rises until the last stage is done. Especially the true climbers in the peloton favor the selective climbs in Spain. Infamous mountains like the Sierra Nevada, the Alto de Abantos and the quite recently discovered Alto d’Angliru provide the riders with rugged sceneries and fabulous battles. Some do consider this Vuelta race to be the best of all Grand Tours.

But the race can’t be won by the climbers alone. The long stretching plains of the Meseta provide a lot of problems of classification riders due to the wind there. Time trialling is a problem for some of the climbers too, so they have to be on their toes all the time and avoid losing time in these particular stages.

In all editions of this race, Spanish riders managed to win just under half of them. The popular Basque Marino Lejarreta and also Luis Ocaña were among the great champions of the event. One that probably won the race because of his downhill capabilities is Pedro Delgado. This rider tried everything in order to descend from a mountain as quickly as possible and stunned his opponents with the way he did it. Lately, Roberto Heras has been dominating the race with the “Amarillo” jersey on his body in Madrid. The small climber from Bejar has won it three times, but was denied a fourth victory because of EPO use. So Heras still has to share the record with a very talented Swiss rider of old. Tony Rominger got his three consecutive victories in the early ninetees.


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