Not sure about the Vuelta

Thursday, 26 August 2010


Is it just me or does nobody care too much for the Vuelta? I wonder if this is personal bias. I live in France but near the Italian border, Spain feels like it’s a long way away and my grasp of Spanish isn’t too hot.

Yet maybe it’s not just me, the media interest before the race certainly seems quieter. On cyclingnews.com a pre-race preview of the Vuelta is competing for attention alongside a visit to a team’s warehouse. A grand tour vs. a large shed.

Is this race fatigue from a long season that began in Australia? I’m not so sure. I think the Vuelta is a great race with a proud tradition but it struggles to attract the best riders. I’m also struggling with the contenders for the race. No Contador, no Evans, and Andy Schleck’s supposed to be playing domestique to his brother. The biggest name is probably Menchov and he’s infamous for his anonymous style.

The race also lacks history, us non-Spaniards don’t have the equivalent myths to Coppi, the Tourmalet or symbolic moments like Alpe d’Huez. Yes the road up to the Lagos de Covadonga is hard, and the Angliru is insane but can you name five riders who have won at Covadonga?

Wait until it gets underway
Nevertheless, it will be exciting once it gets underway. The lack of big names should mean an open race where many riders will have their chance, this is partly what made the Giro so good this year. Certainly no team looks set to crush the race.

Also the race tends to pick up as it goes along, if there is nothing particular to look forward to yet, a soap opera story with multiple plots will gather pace.

Innovation
One thing to look for is the influence of ASO. Already the race website has the same template as ASO’s other events and it seems some experimentation is going on, notably the late night team time trial as the opener.

All told, if the race seems firmly planted as the third grand tour, it’s still a big test and promises some exciting racing.

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{ 5 comments }

Alex Murray August 26, 2010 at 8:42 am

One of the reasons it lacks something is that in the era when the TDF and Giro were forging the myths, Spain was living under Franco.

The other thing that strikes me is that lots of the big climbs seem to end in the middle of nowhere and given the afternoon heat few spaniards cram roadside to watch the race pass on the flat stages.

Anonymous August 26, 2010 at 10:05 am

Concur with Alex Murray: the history of the Vuelta isn't just as long and rich as Giro or TdF, so therefore I think to win it it's a trophy with less prestige than the other two. Plus it has less climbs and departure/arrival cities with mythical appeal like TdF and Giro.
Vuelta used to be held in spring, around the same time as the Giro. Only since it is held in autumn it has been able to grow in prestige as a Grand Tour.

Anonymous August 26, 2010 at 10:31 am

The Vuelta lost prestige when race organizers let politics trump sportsmanship and declined to invite Team Radio Shack. If you exclude the strongest pro team (based on the team win at TdF), then you have a race for second best, with no chance to prove you are the best. It's like having the Olympic games without Russia or the USA; whatever the outcome, it goes into the record books "with an asterisk."

diamondjim August 27, 2010 at 5:59 am

I think there's also the problem of it being seen by many as training for the Worlds, with many top riders withdrawing mid-way through. This reduces its prestige, but this is self reinforcing – they wouldn't withdraw if the race was more prestigous.
Cheers
djk

vendeeu August 27, 2010 at 9:22 am

As the great motoring writer Henry Manney once wrote about Spain large parts are "miles and miles of f… all" which is why the stages are sometimes boring to watch.

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