Vuelta Preview: The third Grand Tour of the year rolls down the team time trial ramp in the Spanish resort town of Torrevieja on Saturday evening for one of the most open Vuelta a España’s for years. It doesn’t look there is a dominant rider, but Ed Hood runs through the course and riders to see who could pull off the big win in Madrid. Vuelta time!
There will be some hard fights in Spain
It’s that time – the biggest race of the year for the Spanish riders, especially the Caja Rural guys; another chance for the successful Giro protagonists to strut their stuff and a last chance for the those who REALLY need a big result to lever that wage rise, or for the even more desperate, ink a last gasp contract or risk the slide back to the pro continental or even continental ranks.
The podium was a little different in those days
The Vuelta is the youngest of the three Grand Tours; the Grande Boucle was first run in 1903 whilst the Corsa Rosa goes back to 1909 – so with a birthday of 1935 the Vuelta is the youngest of the three greatest stage races on earth.
The first Vuelta a España 1935
It didn’t have a good childhood, no sooner born than it’s growth was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War it lurched through the dark days of World War Two and Franco’s reign before becoming the fully grown and most relaxed of the triplet of three week stage races it is now.
Vuelta a España 1947 on the Navacerrada
This year will be edition 74 and of those the home nation has triumphed in 31 of them – it was 32 until Juan José was recently declassed from his 2011 win which was then awarded to Chris Froome.
Cobo – Too good to be true
France is second on nine GC wins; but whilst it was five years ago when Alberto Contador took his third Vuelta (2008/12/14) you have to go all the way back to 1995 and Laurent Jalabert to find the last Frenchman to win.
When Belgian Gustaaf Deloor won the first Vuelta a España in 1935, his first prize was 15,000 pesetas, which converts to about 90 Euros, worth a lot more in those days (approx. €6,000). 14 stages, 3,425 kilometres at 28.54 kph. 50 starters and 29 finishers. Deloor must have liked the Vuelta as he came back and won it the next year.” width=”1200″ height=”767″ class=”size-full wp-image-188633″ /> When Belgian Gustaaf Deloor won the first Vuelta a España in 1935, his first prize was 15,000 pesetas, which converts to about 90 Euros, worth a lot more in those days (approx. €6,000). 14 stages, 3,425 kilometres at 28.54 kph. 50 starters and 29 finishers. Deloor must have liked the Vuelta as he came back and won it the next year
Spain also has most stage wins on 548 with Belgium second on 219 stages – and it was also a Belgian who won the first Vuelta way back in 1935, Gustaaf Deloor. Roberto Heras (Spain) is ‘recordman’ on four wins (2000/3/4/5) and 34 days in the leader’s jersey but whilst Alex Zulle (Switzerland) ‘only’ won the race twice (‘96 & ‘97) he holds the record for days as race leader on 48 stages.
Alejandro Valverde Vuelta winner in 2009 – Miguel Indurain Vuelta winner – never
Of current riders it’s the ‘Green Bullet’ – as he was in his Kelme days – Alejandro Valverde who tops the list of leadership days on 27 with Alberto Contador on 26. Scotland’s own Robert Millar is respectably high in the ‘days of leadership’ stakes on 13 and two second places on GC; there should have been at least one win in there but those Spanish combines did for that dream – best not get too into that subject, I get emotional. . .
Robert Millar should have won at least one Vuelta
Merckx has ‘only’ nine days of leadership and one GC win in 1973 – with the Vuelta just days before the Giro back then he never returned; unpleasantly surprised by the non-stop, death or glory riding of the Spanish Kas team mountain men who made sure it was no easy win for the big Belgian. Merckx is one of the ‘Big Seven’ who have won all three of the Grand Tours along with Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi (rest in peace), Bernard Hinault, Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Froome – that other stage race Colossus, Miguel Indurain never managed to win his home tour.
Eric Caritoux – Vuelta’84 winner
The closest winning margin was six seconds for Eric Caritoux (France) over Alberto Fernandes (Spain) in 1984. Incidentally, it’s generally accepted that Caritoux won that race ‘clean,’ according to those who know. The record number of stage wins falls to Delio Rodriguez on 39 but that was way back in the 1940’s – in recent times ‘Ale Jet’ Petacchi racked up 20, whilst in 1977 Freddy Maertens (Belgium) won a remarkable 13 stages en route the overall victory.
Freddy Maertens in 1977
Most consecutive finishes belongs to Federico Echave (Spain) who rode and finished every Vuelta between 1982 and 1995, Inigo Cuesta started 17 times but was DNF on three occasions. And to close, the fastest Vuelta was 2001 when Angel Casero (Spain) won at 42.534 kph – he was a Festina man so perhaps that explains it?
Robert Millar and the Colombians
Stage 1: Saturday 24/8 – Salinas de Torrevieja – Torrevieja – 13.4km – Team Time Trial
Stage 2: Sunday 25/8 – Benidorm – Calpe 199.6km – hilly
Stage 3: Monday 26/8 – Ibi – Alicante – 188 km – hilly
Stage 4: Tuesday 27/8 – Cullera – El Puig – 175.5km – flat
Stage 5: Wednesday 28/8 – L’Eliana – Javalambre Observatory – 170.7km – mountains
Stage 6: Thursday 29/8 – Mora de Rubielos – Ares del Maestrat – 198.9km – mountains
Stage 7: Friday 30/8 – Onda – Mas de la Costa – 183.2km – mountains
Stage 8: Saturday 31/8 – Valls – Igualada – 166.9 km – flat
Stage 9: Sunday 1/9 – Andorra la Vella – Cortals d’Encamp – 94.4km – mountains
Monday: 2/9 – Rest day
Stage 10: Tuesday 3/9 – Jurançon – Pau – 36.2km – ITT
Stage 11: Wednesday 4/9 – Saint Palais – Urdax – 180km – hilly
Stage 12: Thursday 5/9 – Navarra Circuit – Bilbao – 171.4km – flat
Stage 13: Friday 6/9 – Bilbao – Los Machucos – 166.4km – mountains
Stage 14: Saturday 7/9 – San Vincente de la Barquera – Oviedo – 188km – flat
Stage 15: Sunday 8/9 – Tineo – Santuario del Acebo – 154.4km – mountains
Stage 16: Monday 9/9 – Pravia – Alto de la Cubilla – 144.4km – mountains
Tuesday: 10/9 – Rest day
Stage 17: Wednesday 11/9 – Aranda de Duero – Guadalajara – 219.6km – flat
Stage 18: Thursday 12/9 – Colmenar Viejo – Becerril de la Sierra – 177.5km – mountains
Stage 19: Friday 13/9 – Ávila – Toledo – 165.2km – flat
Stage 20: Saturday 14/9 – Arenas de San Pedro – Plataforma de Gredos – 190.4km – mountains
Stage 21: Sunday 15/9 – Fuenlabrada – Madrid – 106.6km – flat
That breaks down as:
# nine mountain stages including eight summit finishes
# three hilly stages
# seven flat stages
# one TTT
# one ITT
# two rest days
BMC won the last Vuelta stage 1 team time trial in 2017
The TTT to open is always spectacular, but it flatters to deceive, this parcours is not for bestial rouleurs.
Four summit finished before the first rest day
Six hilly/mountainous stages with four summit finishes in the first week ensure the rough shape of the GC will be formed before the first rest day and ensure this is a race for climbers. Freddy Maertens couldn’t win this one.
The tough stages 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16
With nine ‘mountain’ and three ‘hilly’ stages the climbers and breakaway specialists are well catered for and even some of the so called ‘flat stages; are peppered with ascents which make them as attractive to the baroudeurs as they are to the sprinters.
Time trial stage 10
Any one of the mountain top finishes could be critical, but Stage Nine catches our eye as being particularly savage. The stage 10 time test is flat and one for the specialists.
Stage 16 is brutal, as is Stage 18 and the race could even be decided on relentless Stage 20 with its six categorised climbs and mountain top finish.
We got the Giro winner wrong but the Tour victor right; here are the PEZ 12 Apostles of Iberia, can we make it two out of three?
Giro/Tour double for Carapaz?
Richard Carapaz (Movistar and Equador): The Giro winner was third in Burgos so we reckon he’s ready for this one; albeit he has a big target on his back now – those pros don’t often make the same mistake twice and there’ll be very little slack cut for this man.
Hugh Carthy – High expectations
Hugh Carthy (EF Education First and GB): A man who’s worked his way steadily up the ranks to where he is now – very close to the top of the ‘mountain men.’ A stage win and king of the mountains in the Swiss Tour and a strong showing in San Sebastian. We see a stage win and top 10 placing on the cards.
Fuglsang – 2019 part 2
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana and Denmark): The man of the spring, can he come back in the autumn after that disastrous Tour de France? Probably not but he should give ‘Superman’ Lopez good support,
Izagirre – Astana’s No.2
Ion Izagirre (Astana and Spain): He was flying early season and more recently was just outside the top 10 in Poland, however he may have to put his own chances in the cupboard in favour of a certain Señor Lopez.
Steven Kruijswijk – Maybe working for Roglic
Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma and The Netherlands): A man who should really have a Grand Tour to his name but for a brush with a snow bank. Unspectacular but his big diesel engine makes him very hard to distance and third in the best Tour de France in years will have done his confidence no harm at all. BUT the Tour makes huge demands on the system and it’s hard to see anyone who was racing for a podium or defending a top 10 in France being at their best here – and ‘see Primos Roglic.’
‘Superman’ Lopez could live up to his nick-name
Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana and Colombia): Last year he was on the podium here as well as in the Giro. Early season he won Colombia 2.1 and followed up with Catalunya; the dice didn’t role his way in the Giro albeit he won the white jersey of best young rider. He was invisible in the recent Tour of Poland but would just be blowing away the cobwebs – a podium is well possible.
Majka – He’ll be there, somewhere
Rafa Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe and Poland): Sixth in the Giro and ninth in his recent home tour but he hasn’t sparkled like he did a year or two ago, however he should be at home with all the anti-gravity involved here – top six?
Young hope – Pogacar
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates and Slovenia): UAE know a good thing when they see one and have the 20 year-old sensation on their books until 2023 – with wins this year in the Algarve and California, who can blame them? His Grand Tour debut, we observe with interest.
Quintana – Stage win goodbye for Movistar?
Nairo Quintana (Movistar and Colombia): Eighth in the Tour and stage win, good but less than we’d expected a year or two ago from a man who looked certain to win the Tour after his Vuelta and Giro successes. As with all those who went deep in the Tour, a top performance here is unlikely but a stage win is possible.
Roglic will have learnt from the Giro
Primos Roglic (Jumbo-Visma and Slovenia): We had him down as top favourite for the Giro; he took two stages and was on the podium so it was hardly a disaster – he’s well rested, wiser and with two strong henchmen in Kruijswijk and Gesink. The flat test and all those hills suit his skill set – he can win it.
Uran could please the Colombian fans
Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First and Colombia): Yet another man from Colombia; his big diesel took him to seventh in the Tour – strong and vastly experienced a top 10 is possible.
The World champion will want to perform in-front of his home fans
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar and Spain): He won’t win but could well win a stage and/or enjoy a spell in the jersey of leadership. The world champion currently stands fourth in the all-time world rankings behind Eddy Merckx, Gino Bartali and Sean Kelly – a remarkable man.
It won’t be Simon Yates on the Madrid podium – Who will win?
# It all rolls off the ramp on Saturday, PEZ will be there on the TTT parcours and all the way through to Madrid. Cruzcampo, San Miguel, Alhambra, Estrella Galicia are all fine, they have to be cold though – and get some olives in. . . For live action get over to SteepHillTV. #
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,700 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.