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The Vuelta

The Vuelta a Espana (The Tour of Spain.) is fast becoming my favorite of all the Grand Tours. The Giro d’Italia being the first of the season is often missing a lot of the top riders because they are saving themselves for the Tour de France.

But the Vuelta, everyone is there, all my favorites that I have watched throughout the season. The Vuelta is extremely hard, and everyone is tired so anything can happen. To me Grand Tours are all about the mountains. The Vuelta doesn’t mess around, there are big hills and mountains right from the start in the first week.

The Tour de France you may as well skip the first week. Flat sprinters stages where every day there is the inevitable break, the sprinter’s teams all give chase, and the break is reeled in with five or so kilometers remaining. Then comes the exciting part as the sprinters all jockey for position.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to see Cavendish, Greipel, and Kittel in action, but I will often have the commentary playing in the background while I do other work, and just watch the final 5K. If I want to watch a parade, I prefer one with a band, and balloons.

The Vuelta is so tough the big name sprinters stayed away this year, meaning that when there is a sprint it is not a foregone conclusion, which adds to the excitement. Because there are hard mountain climbs early on the race, the General Classification (GC) is soon established with a list of favorites coming to the fore in the first week.

This means that breakaways made up of riders way down in the GC are allowed to stay away as they pose no threat to the race leaders. This, I think makes for more interesting racing. You get two races in one going on. One for the stage win, followed by another as the General Classification boys duke it out.

With most of the riders having raced all season and done at least one other Grand Tour, everyone is tired. A rider can have one bad day and turn the whole race on its head. Alejandro Valverde for example rode consistently and was second or third in the GC, from Stage 2 until Stage 14 when he blew up big time, lost 10 minutes, and slipped out of contention.

Sunday, Stage 15 it was Chris Froome’s turn. His team, tired from the previous day’s efforts slipped off the back, leaving Froome isolated. He missed a vital split and allowed other GC contenders to gain time on him. Froome is still second overall but he is now 3:37 behind Nairo Quintana, and Estaban Chaves is only a further 20 secs down in 3rd. place, with Alberto Contador only another 5 seconds back in 4th. place.

Froome can’t afford another bad day, or he could slip out a podium spot altogether. Orica’s Simon Yates is only another minute back in 5th, and is looking really strong. Quintana has consistently looked the strongest in the race, but with another week of more mountains and a Time Trial, anything can happen.

It is by no means a foregone conclusion that Quintana will win. Froome could claw his way back, or he could go “Pop.” Simon Yates could surprise everyone. That is what makes the Vuelta a Espana such a great race.


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Reader Comments (6)

Great race, To me the scenery is outstanding, better than the TDF Froome looks in trouble and I don't think he will be able to catch Qintana, Cav who quit the TDF I thought for the Olympics (did he medal) cashed in the last stage. Love the bike that Wiggins is riding. ALSO right after the Tour of Spain is the Tour of Britain, Once again some beautiful scenery, first stage in Scotland along some roads that Marcia and I have driven along.Great stuff. TWO Tours one after the other, Get away from all the B/S politics on TV

September 5, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Great post, this has been my favorite race for a long time. Anything can happen, which makes it fun to follow.

September 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLance Hull

Too bad it's not covered on regular TV I believe the last stage is being shown on NBCSN, but that's it for the easily accessed channels.
John, Cavendish won Silver in Rio.

September 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMartin W

Like you, Dave, I've preferred the Vuelta over the other Grand Tours for several years. It just seems to have more parity and better racing.

While I appreciate the well-oiled machine that is Team Sky, their dominance has made the TdF a bit of a let-down for the last few years, as the other GC contenders just don't have the teammates to challenge Froome. Even a tired Froome has been able to hang in there in the Vuelta because he has a team that can pull for him when the going gets tough.

This Vuelta is not done. With the time trial still to go, and Froome and Contador being pretty decent at that discipline, Qunitana is right to still be concerned that his lead is not safe. I don't think Contador has the legs to challenge, but Froome is capable of anything. I'll be watching the next few stages closely, as I think this Vuelta still has some drama to offer.

September 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterYohann

HI Dave,

I’m more of a fan of the Vuelta and Giro than the Tour for the obvious reasons, and team sky in particular. The commentary we are getting in Canada is Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll which way better than Paul and Phil at the tour and now Bob has got away from his rah rah of the Armstrong era, ( once bitten twice shy maybe?) it’s a good combo.

Apart from a couple of stages on the Mediterranean coast and the procession into Madrid, this years version is all in northern Spain which is very lumpy with great scenery making a must watch. The 2012 version was pretty much the same because the towns and cities in the south and interior of Spain didn’t have the cash to pay the Vuelta organisers to host the start and finish, however I’ve not read anything to suggest this is the same scenario.

From a fans point of view it does away with the often boring stages of less challenging tedious routes across a desert landscape which dominates much of Spain once away from the Pyrenees and surrounding areas. From the riders aspect they aren’t baking in often 40 degree Celsius temperatures, but long term if this does become the norm., I’m not so sure it would be good for the Vuelta – (oh no all climbing again) which is used both as a bike race and a travelogue showcasing Spain.

September 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKeith E.

To its fun to watch the Tour of Britain after the Spain tour, Two very different races. Like Dave I have ridden many of the roads in the Brit tour and can relate to them. The scenery in BOTH tours is very different but both have there beauty. One thing that strikes me in the Tour of Britain, it has never done that before is,( I think Bob Roll mentioned this) CARS still parked along the road sides as the riders are approaching.Yesterdays stage from wales ending in BARTH not BATH as the Yank commentators say. Lots of memories for Dave and I,Those roads we have both ridden many times, HUH DAVE! Today Devon and Dartmoor wonder if the prison is still there.along with the wild horses.Can be a pretty bleak place with the weather. By the way we always go to England in September and have great weather then as it is now

September 9, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump
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