Vuelta a Espana

vuelta_espana-logoThe Vuelta a Espana (tour of Spain) is one of the three cycling “Grand Tours” in Europe. Along with the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, it is a three week long road race divided into stages. Since we are in the midst of following the tour, with the final stage nearing on September 19, I thought a brief history and a few brush up facts of the tour was a must.

The Vuelta was first held in 1935 with 50 entrants.  Juan Pujol, director of the Information Daily, instigated the race to increase his newspapers circulation, just as the Tour de France had done for local French papers. Originally it took place in the spring, but was moved to September in 1995 to deter it from competing with the Giro d’Italia, which is held in May. With its new timing, most professionals compete to prepare for the World Championships in October.

The race consists of time trials, sprint stages and mountain stages. Just as the Tour de France ends in Paris, the Vuelta usually ends in Spain’s capital, Madrid. In 1999, the course crossed the Alto de El Angliru in Asturias for the first time. This 12.9 km long climb reaches 1,573 meters with grades of 23.6%, making it one of the steepest in Europe.

Race leaders are recognized by their jerseys. Throughout the years, the colors have changed numerous times. However, in recent years the jerseys have been established as such: the general classification leader wears the red, the point’s leader is in green and the mountain leader is awarded the blue polka dot jersey. A white jersey is given to the leader in the combination classification, which combines totals for best overall, points and mountain categories.

With this being the 65th time this race has taken place, many outstanding riders have worn these jerseys. The winner of the Vuelta in its inaugural year was Gustaaf Deloor. Tony Rominger and Roberto Heras have won three Vuelta’s, which is the most any individual has won. Roberto Heras won his fourth in 2005, but was stripped of the title when he tested positive for EPO. Jacques Anquetil, in 1963, was the first person to win all three Grand Tours. Following him in this triumph have been Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Alberto Contador.

The Vuelta is always an exciting race to watch and this year is no different. The competition is always at their top performance, seeing as most of the competitors just ended the Giro and Tour de France. I am anxious to see who wins the red jersey for the 65th Vuelta.