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The Rise of the Vuelta

The Vuelta a España has long been third of the three grand tours. Now it’s changing, helped by a startlist with more stardust than the Perseid shower, combining the best of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. The exception is 2014 winner Alberto Contador yet his absence could be the best thing to happen for the Vuelta in the long term.

Third Grand Tour
The Vuelta’s late slot has been a problem with what we could call “season fatigue” setting in. By late August pro cycling is beginning to take on the feel of an out of season seaside resort, the crowds have gone and there’s a chill of melancholia. The energy that had you watching rudimentary footage from the Tour de San Luis or a pirate feed of an early season semi-classic is long gone.

The Vuelta has been third in other metrics too, it was the third grand tour to get going in 1935 and has lagged ever since; for years it was as if the Pyrenees were almost impassable for the peloton as the race remained an Iberian preserve, some foreigners would race and even win but it remained an Iberian preserve. Little more than a decade ago 23 of the first 25 finishers in the Vuelta were Spaniards. It’d reached the point where shortening the race had been up for discussion, or at least attempted by some.

Alberto Contador

¡Gracias Alberto!
When a star crashes out of the Tour de France does Vuelta director Javier Guillén dance a jig or a fist pump? French leave often sees the rider return for the Vuelta, see Chris Froome last year and Tejay van Garderen now, a boost to the Spanish race which becomes a Tour remake or repêchage. Yet has the biggest contribution to the Vuelta’s success come from Spaniard Alberto Contador’s absence? Perversely his failed Giro-Tour double could be a big boost to the Vuelta in the coming years. Contador’s fatigue, aided by the relative discretion in July of fellow girini Alexandre Geniez, Steven Kruijswijk and Ryder Hesjedal will likely make the combo unfashionable for another decade. For all we know the Giro-Tour could still be possible if circumstances had turned out different for Contador and others would be tempted to copy. But that didn’t happen and since the Tour de France is the body around which the sport orbits it means the big GC contenders will skip the Giro to congregate in France with fresh legs. Once they’ve done the Tour many will ride the Vuelta.

The fizz soon ran out

There are fewer days between the Tour and Vuelta than there between the Giro and Tour so why is el doble ok and la doppietta isn’t? Partly because of the Giro is harder, it has some longer stages (260km this year) and the mountain stages are brutal with more altitude and attitude although the Fuente del Chivo looks demonic. Mainly because there’s nothing to lose. Get the Giro gamble wrong and you ruin the Tour. But get the Tour wrong and you can salvage something in the Vuelta; get the Tour right and you can ride the Vuelta as you wish.

Made in Spain?

La Preparación
Another factor behind the Vuelta’s draw for some riders is training. While some don’t want to ride the Giro because of the effort involved, the Spanish tour attracts some because of the workout. It’s been used by many as a pre-Worlds conditioning, see Philippe Gilbert for example or Tony Martin who even used a long raid on a stage as part of his prep for the Worlds title. Now there’s another angle with the stage race specialists wanting to bank three weeks in their legs before the off-season. Take Chris Froome who could ease up for the rest of the year, perhaps trundling around the Tour of Britain, but it would mean a long break from racing. Instead the Vuelta offers hard conditioning and usually in good weather too. This isn’t flattering the Vuelta but Guillén will surely take it.

Point-less
A small factor is the UCI points system has changed and perhaps attitudes have followed too. Once UCI points were highly prized as teams fought to avoid relegation; today there are 17 teams in the 18 team world tour and the currency is devalued. Some riders were “benched” by their teams on news they were leaving for another squad: if a rider’s leaving why give them a valuable start which will only help them and even earn points which accrue to their new team. The counter argument was that it pays to take your best team to go win something but several riders were redundant for some managers. Now we see Dan Martin will ride for Cannondale-Garmin despite an almost certain exit. Perhaps there are more? It’s a small thing but another tilt to the Vuelta.

Made for TV
The course has also got better in recent years with more lively finishes rather than endless rides across the plains of Spain. ASO owns the race 100% now and there’s been talk of using the Vuelta as a “laboratory”. Certainly it’s got shorter stages to spice up the races. There are more summit finishes and they’re spread throughout the race – perhaps too many – but it’s a better TV product than it was five or ten years ago.

No contest
Finally you don’t have to choose. The point of this piece isn’t to rank the Vuelta against the Giro. Don’t read this as a simultaneous ode to the Vuelta and an obituary to the Giro. With luck you get to enjoy plenty of stage races, spring classics and more all year long. To watch or even ride the Vuelta is not to exclude or abandon the Giro. It’s a matter of nuance and relative standings, the Vuelta this year looks to be on the up while the Giro may struggle to attract star names. Yet the Italian race remains compelling, beautiful and prestigious. One example is how the Vuelta struggles to impose itself on our collective conscience of cycling via the landscape. The Tour de France has made the Galibier, Tourmalet, Ventoux, Alpe d’Huez famous, ditto the Stelvio and Gavia for the Giro. For the Vuelta the likes of the Angliru or Lagos de Covadonga just don’t seem to have the same hold. Meanwhile the Giro has showered celebrity on the Mortirolo and Monte Zoncolan in no time, they first used in 1990 and 2003.

Summary
The Vuelta a España is on the up, boosted by the presence of top riders and taken seriously by more teams. While it was once an Iberian preserve it’s becoming increasingly open, a Tour de France revenge match that also attracts the best from the Giro keen to test themselves once more in the season. Meanwhile the Giro d’Italia has a recurrent problem of trying to attract star names and Alberto Contador’s fatigue in France probably means fewer big names will do the Giro next year. We will all still watch the Giro but Vuelta is starting to play catch-up.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • BC Friday, 14 August 2015, 9:18 pm

    Excellent review. It has become interesting to have three very competitive three week events in the year, each with their own identity and’special attractions’.

    That Contador failed in the double this year may have been as a result of more challenging competition in the Tour, not just simply down to fatigue.

    • Souln Monday, 17 August 2015, 11:53 am

      Competition at the TdF is always higher than in other GTs, so what is your point?

  • Tricky Hawes Friday, 14 August 2015, 9:37 pm

    You might think that a natural equilibrium would be for one set of elite GC riders each year to aim at the Tour, and another to go for the Giro-Vuelta double?

    Plenty of recovery time for the latter, and perhaps the nature / status of the achievement would be roughly equal across the two aspirations? (And of course if a Tour challenger wanted to go for one of the other two, well go ahead, but he’d be up against riders who had a more sensible and achievable season plan.)

    Guess ‘problem’ – if it is a problem – with that is that there’ll always be a Contador who goes for the Giro, and then tries his hand at the Tour too…

    • Necko Friday, 14 August 2015, 11:58 pm

      Nibali’s loss to Horner two years ago has led many to the conclusion that a Giro Vuelta double is as tricky as a Giro Tour double. Peaking for a grand tour two times within a year is as tricky as maintaining a peak from May to July. I think Inrng is correct and star GC names will be racing for early winter training with next years Tour in mind. This always leaves the possibility of the big names being mugged by someone like Cobo or Horner.

      • gabriele Saturday, 15 August 2015, 7:05 pm

        Not *as* tricky (by a *very* long way), but tricky enough, indeed.

  • SArover Friday, 14 August 2015, 9:40 pm

    2011-2014

    2011: Cobo v Froome and Wiggins

    2012: Contador’s mythical return and win on Fuente De

    2013: Horner v Nibali

    2014: Contador beats Froome

    I’d propose that no other GT has been as exciting since 2011.

    • Adam Friday, 14 August 2015, 10:22 pm

      Did you watch the Giro during that time span?

      • Anonymous Saturday, 15 August 2015, 5:08 am

        Just to expand:

        2011: Contador crushes it ‘off the beach’.

        2012: Rodriguez loses it to Hesjedal by a microscopic margin, after Ryder grinds away.

        2013: Nibali and the snow reign supreme.

        2014: Return of the snow, Evans last hurrah and a last week turnaround.

        2015: Dead, until it was no longer, and polemicas galore.

        I’d say the Vuelta has been more consistently good, but the best editions of the Giro in that time have been better (2012, 2014)

        • Anonymous Saturday, 15 August 2015, 5:19 am

          “off the beach” was 2008, NOT 2011

          • Anonymous Saturday, 15 August 2015, 6:05 am

            Sorry, I’ve got it muddled up. 2011 was crushed it and lost it…

        • gabriele Saturday, 15 August 2015, 7:03 pm

          I’d say that the Vuelta – which I’m an admirer of – was (way) better only in 2012. A race, to be exciting, must be fun to watch, it’s not about the fast-gone thrill when you just read the daily results and don’t know what to expect until the cyclingnews page has charged 😛

          • frood Monday, 17 August 2015, 2:14 pm

            Last year’s Vuelta was a great race. Contador played a great tactical hand while Froome had to throw everything at it. I also thought this year’s Giro was a good race, but more for the good stages than the race for the overall

  • The Real Jhutch Friday, 14 August 2015, 9:45 pm

    Great perspective on a race I’ve gradually fallen in love with over the last few years. It feels less talked about and less predicted, sometimes all the pre race speculation ( not Inrng obviously) can take some of the fun out of the Giro and Tour. I for one can’t wait.

  • Baad-BooBoo Friday, 14 August 2015, 9:47 pm

    Appetite wetted, thanks.

  • Baad-BooBoo Friday, 14 August 2015, 9:49 pm

    yes the 2012 edition of the Vuelta still ranks as one of my favourite races of recent years

  • channel_zero Friday, 14 August 2015, 10:18 pm

    I love the Giro. The terrain in the stages always seem to liven up the race unlike the Tour’s set piece finishes.

    It seems to me it is quite a departure for the Tour winner to ride the Vuelta in the last decade. Any chance Froome is riding because ASO encouraged him to do so?

    The last couple of years of the Vuelta have indeed been much better in terms of parcourse.

    • Finn Saturday, 15 August 2015, 12:38 pm

      Apparently the course was designed for Froome with the long flat TT (but we know he doesn’t need those to win) and i think he likes the vuelta

  • Richard Friday, 14 August 2015, 11:44 pm

    Excellent as always, but I’m not sure about “trundling around the Tour of Britain” – last year both world champions came from the the British race rather than the Vuelta. The ToB gets harder every year, with the small roads and 6-man teams meaning there are no easy days. This year’s route looks brutal too: the queen stage in particular is like a mini-classic across the Peak District, with 3500m of elevation gain in just 190km!

    • hoh Saturday, 15 August 2015, 8:39 am

      I don’t think Inner ring thought TOB is easy. Rather, Froome wouldn’t need to perform there (neither did Wiggo in 2012). The reason for him to be there were PR and to show British fans that he cared about the race and gain “love” from them.

      • The Inner Ring Saturday, 15 August 2015, 10:55 am

        That’s about it, and it’s a shorter race and often with bad weather, it’s not the same base of training before the off-season.

    • Andy W Saturday, 15 August 2015, 5:28 pm

      Whilst it generates a lot of interest amongst British fans and forums, the ToB is still a small race, with ProTour teams sending a few big names but mainly their B or C teams and stagiares, to take on ProConti and domestic British opposition.
      Wiggo and Cav do come here to ‘trundle round’, rather than win – it’s riders like Brandle or Konig (or JTL…) who use it to showcase themselves on the route upwards to the Big Time.
      Britain has hills rather than mountains, and the fact that it has only rolling-road closures means that the stages have to be planned to keep the peloton manageable rather than allowing a breakaway to get 20minutes up the road – the great cycling-unfriendly British public wouldn’t stand for the roads to be blocked for that long, if the organisers had enough motorbikes to do it.
      It’s getting bigger year-on-year certainly, but still has a way to go.

  • AK Saturday, 15 August 2015, 12:38 am

    I think people are reading way too much into Contador’s performance at the Tour. Nobody knows how he would have done if he hadn’t won the Giro. And plenty of riders didn’t win without riding the Giro. On top of that his performance in the last week of the Giro wasn’t so great either. I read a comment on this site earlier this year that I still think is correct (forgot by who), saying that probably Contador used the Giro as an advance excuse for not winning the Tour, sensing that he’s not strong enough anymore to count on a win in July. Smart strategy, he’s salvaged his season in May already.

    • Doctornurse Saturday, 15 August 2015, 5:56 pm

      Meh, I think that Contador can win any single GT he specifically trains for, and that if he was able to make top5 at the Tdf after winning the 2014 Vuelta and the 2015 Giro on the trot he is certainly strong enough to win the TdF if he only focused on that race.

      I think that the fatigue we saw in the Colle de Finestre and the Tdf was to be expected, and would have been queried if absent. That said, the man came 5th in the Tdf against a really strong field, so his season (from September-September based around GT performances) has been a success, no?

    • gabriele Saturday, 15 August 2015, 6:50 pm

      I quite disagree with that line of thought, which, albeit looking like a sound narrative, doesn’t make much sense from the POV of a sportsman (nor in practice). I won’t enter in much detail, since the subject was debated when such comments came out.

      Amongst other things, it wouldn’t be very clear when would have Contador acknowledged that he wasn’t strong anymore, since his 2014 was impressive performance-wise and he announced his decision in late September, I think. Unless he knows some behind-the-scene reason because of which Froome and Quintana should have been raising their predictable level (or perhaps about his own team, not being at the required level?): but that’s really conspiranoia.

      In fact, Contador didn’t have the same freedom to set his training peaks during the first part of the season as his opponents could have (with that far a single task): though, he didn’t seem to be inferior enough to suspect he couldn’t have had any option in the Tour.

      Besides, whoever watched the Giro may imagine the impact of a race rode like that. That was quite unexpected, I think (except for Astana, maybe). Every single commentator was writing, beforehand, that the 2014 Giro looked “relatively easy” and “back-loaded”, making it especially favourable for a “doppietta” attempt. Things went otherwise, and it’s simply unfair or naïf to suppose that such circumstances wouldn’t limit Contador’s performance in July.

    • Narkie Sunday, 16 August 2015, 2:56 pm

      What excuse will he use for next year?

      • Anonymous Monday, 17 August 2015, 9:16 am

        Did you see the Giro? No excuses needed. I think after that Giro everybody knew deep down, that there was no way Contador will be able to come back from that effort to win the Tour. That he did as well as he did, showed that he was right in trying the double in the first place. With an easier Giro, things could have turned out different. And who knows-if he hadn’t announced that the will try the double, the Giro would not have been such a tough race. As it was, Astana went to war with Tinkoff every day from the very beginning.

        • Doctornurse Monday, 17 August 2015, 10:52 am

          Exactly- as Inring once said- Contador is the only rider in the pro peloton who can win a GT even when he is not the strongest rider. His win in the 2014 Vuelta was evidence of that, and was based on guts, determination and pure class. I have said before, and will say again that cycling will miss Contador when he retires, and hopefully the other GT contenders will show that they can race with a bit more of Contador’s imagination, panache and style than they showed in the very mechanical, tightly controlled and tentatively raced TdF…

          • irungo txuletak Monday, 17 August 2015, 12:28 pm

            I completely agree with the comment of Doctronurse, cycling will miss Kontador when he retires -and this despite of the steak story. His concept of racing is very different from others. The only one of the great GT contenders that has a bit of his spirit is Nibali.
            Regarding the doppieta, I agree with Gabriele when he says that the Giro was ridden compromised it. As well, the opposition in the Tour was the strongest in years. The factors were not very favourable to succeeding in this challenge this year.

  • Anonymous Saturday, 15 August 2015, 5:22 am

    Love that photo of tinkov and the grinning out of focus contador.

    • Andy W Saturday, 15 August 2015, 5:10 pm

      What is Oleg scattering our oc the car – something for Alberto to put on, or in, his steak ?

  • Joe Sarroni Saturday, 15 August 2015, 6:01 am

    As a long time Giro fan, it tough to see the the current state of affairs of the Giro and Italian cycling. For years it was an essential part of a pre tour build up, while mainting its position as season defining race for a compelling Italian star. Now the Giro finds itself as a stand alone gran tour without a compelling cast of Italian riders. I do miss Giros of my youth with Moser, Saronni, Visentini, Gavazzi and compagni. The Giro as a stand alone goal is a race that has become larger than the participants. Without tha annual visit of a top tour contender to create the necessary tension for the giornalisti to write about makes the morning capuccino with the Gazzetta feel empty.
    It feels like a new era is starting and seeing stars like Contador go for the doppietta a thing of the past.

    • Larry T. Saturday, 15 August 2015, 2:37 pm

      As an unabashed tifoso of La Corsa Rosa, I see little to worry about here with the exception being ASO’a ownership of La Vuelta. Plenty of riders and teams want to win the Giro d’Italia as well as LeTour and La Vuelta. Only a grand champion can win all three, something I doubt Froome can do but (like Wiggo) I’d love to see him try. As to ASO, I’d certainly rather see them own La Vuelta than see it go away but their hegemony over the sport is getting dangerously strong.

      • Anonymous Saturday, 15 August 2015, 3:23 pm

        I think that Froome is capable of winning all three, but the question is whether Sky will let him try all three. As long as the Tour is his main focus he won’t be riding the Giro. The Tour-Vuelta double is still difficult so there is no guarantee he would be able to do that either. If Froome wins the Tour for a third time next year I would like to see him go for the Giro-Vuelta double. That would be more impressive than winning a fourth Tour.

        • Anonymous Saturday, 15 August 2015, 8:00 pm

          Do you mean all in one year or in separate years? Separate years, yes, but as Froome only just scraped the win in this year’s Tour, he’s shown no signs whatsoever of being able to win all three in one year.

          • Anonymous Saturday, 15 August 2015, 8:07 pm

            Apologies, clearly you meant in separate years.
            I think he can do a double, but T-V is much easier to do than G-T.

      • Tobias Sunday, 16 August 2015, 7:15 pm

        Larry – I strongly agree with your thoughts on the ASO.
        In a boycott the ASO scenario – could an alternate Tour of Spain become reality?

  • Les Revenants Saturday, 15 August 2015, 8:20 am

    I love the Vuelta, but it doesn’t seem to have the same fan support as the other two big GTs, with the exception of the mountainous north, esp. the Basque Country. On some of those long stages through Andalucía or Murcia, the roadsides are deserted, though the heat may be a factor.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 15 August 2015, 12:40 pm

      In the south there is a lot of space between towns, who would want to drive for a long time to stand next to a baking hot roadside to see them whiz by, the mountain stages in the south are popular though

      • Vitus Sunday, 23 August 2015, 4:31 am

        Plus the TdF happens in French holiday season, and of other countries around, who come there in the holidays to watch the Tour.
        Not true for Spain in September.

  • The not-so-real Ullrich Saturday, 15 August 2015, 9:16 am

    Lovely write-up INRNG.
    As Sean Kelly has pointed out in the past, the Vuelta represents the last chance for GC contenders and Spring Classic riders to salvage their palmares for the year.
    So there’s a real hunger from unsuspecting quarters.
    Cheers.

  • irungo txuletak Saturday, 15 August 2015, 10:38 am

    In terms of route, for me the best of the 3 GT is clearly the Giro, with great variety of terrain and landscapes. The Tour is quite conservative and the Vuelta has the problem of Spanish geography: no alps to make stages with 3 succesive 1000m elevations climb stages, central Spain is almost as dry as a desert and quite flat as well,…
    However, one should recognize that Guillen had been able to take the best out of Spanish geography to make the Vuelta route more interesting. He always find new super steep climbs that spice the end of the stages and try not to abuse of the central Spanish plateau (instead he goes to northern Spain -galicia, asturias- or to Andalucia).
    As well, this relative lack of huge mountains makes the Vuelta more interesting to follow, since the time gaps between the contenders are reduced.

  • Ed Saturday, 15 August 2015, 10:39 am

    Another factor, in the UK anyway, is that the Vuelta is shown on TV (ITV4). The same channel as TDF is shown. This opens it up to viewers. There is no mainstream Giro coverage.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 15 August 2015, 12:00 pm

      That’s interesting to hear. In this year’s Giro there was not one rider from the UK. And that although one of the Teams that wanted to win the race came from that country. Usually you have for the media at least one rider from the homecountry in the team. What was also interesting, is that the whole Tour had only 3 riders from the States riding and that although 3 teams from that country competed (ok, BMC is more swiss, but anyway).

      • M Saturday, 15 August 2015, 6:16 pm

        That’s a disappointing statistic and certainly a decline since 2009 when there were nine Britons in the race: Froome (Barloworld), Hunt and Lloyd (Cervelo), Millar and Wiggins (Garmin), Stannard (ISD), Cavendish (High Road), Wegelius (Lotto) and Swift (Katusha).

        As for ITV I’m sure they would show Giro highlights if Froome made it his big season target, and conversely I doubt they would show the Vuelta if a British rider didn’t have a chance of winning it.

        • Anonymous Saturday, 15 August 2015, 7:37 pm

          I would think it has also to do with ASO and contracts in place for showing other ASO-races, if they want the Tour. Which I think is a good thing, I would do it not differently than ASO and it means less popular races also get on a bigger stage, which is a good thing for the sport. More variety and a more realistic face of the sport than only the Tour. And it isn’t as if the ASO has got this portfolio of races out of nowhere. Took them long and hard work to obtain it and now they have a solid base to stand on for the next decades. Maybe this is a thing that will change in the future: Going away from single, local organisers for the professional races and instead we get 4 or 5 big organisers who do it in cooperation with locals. I think the Arctic race is handled this way?

  • DJ Saturday, 15 August 2015, 12:09 pm

    What I think also contributes to the ‘worldwide’ fame of climbs from the Tour and Giro vs Vuelta is that they are easier to reach for the cycling enthusiasts from northern Europe. The Alps and Dolomites are maybe not next door to Belgium, the Netherlands, northern France or the UK, but are within reach of a long days’ drive. This (at least in part) explains the popularity of cyclosportives in Italy, France, Austria and Switzerland that get a lot more attention than, eg the Quebrantahuesos in Spain. And of course, the more the pro’s ‘experience’ is shared by riding the same roads, the more famous the climb becomes.

  • ccotenj Saturday, 15 August 2015, 3:02 pm

    i, for one, am looking forward to the vuelta….

    a) it is a major bike race, and we get coverage of it in the usa, so i can watch it… i’m really hoping for more coverage than the last 90 minutes of each stage, we shall see what we get…

    b) froome vs. quintana…

    c) can tj podium? although to be honest, i will probably be sick of this question about 2 hours into the first stage, as it will be beaten into us by p&p (assuming they are doing the commentary, i’m hoping for “commentator x” and gogo, personally)… since it is on universal sports here (nbc property), at least we shouldn’t have to deal with carlton…

    d) what “relatively unexpected contender” will make things irritating for f&q? there generally is at least one player that no one really expected…

    e) the last drink at the fountain for stage racing for the year… 🙁

    f) the course looks pretty interesting…

    there’s more… but needless to say, i’m ready for it to start…

    the only “bad part” of the vuelta is that when it ends, winter is just around the corner… 🙁

    • matt Sunday, 16 August 2015, 3:28 am

      You should get gogo and commentator x (I hope steve schlanger) as P&P I don’t think commentate on universal sport and will probably be busy commentating in colorado.

      • ccotenj Sunday, 16 August 2015, 3:45 pm

        i wasn’t sure, since we are getting the usa pro challenge on universal as well*…

        i too am hoping for steve schlanger (along with gogo)… steve actually pays attention to the race, and notices when “little stuff that could possibly be interesting” happens… and gogo has made huge strides since he started, i rather enjoy him now… if they could get jensie on the back of a motorcycle for in-race commentary, i could easily live with those 3 for all the races… we will keep paul in a special booth on the side for his encyclopedic knowledge of castles and so on… as far as phil, well, they are always hiring “greeters” at walmart… 🙂

        the more i think about it, the more i’m looking forward to this race… i think it is going to be a good one… possibly that is wishful thinking, i hope not…

        * tying back to a comment i made in another inrng post about video coverage (or lack thereof) of races… it should be noted that there are 3 “2.hc” stage races in the usa, and all of them have free unrestricted video streaming… if 3 “small fry” races in a non-cycling country can manage this financially, there is no excuse for “big” races in cycling countries to not do the same…

        • Larry T. Sunday, 16 August 2015, 4:10 pm

          Really? “The Colorado Vacation” will be streamed live and free? I’ve been out of the USA for awhile, but thought NBC had restrictions like you had to be a cable TV subscriber to their sports channel, etc. Sometimes I wish all this technology would allow the viewer to mute Heckel & Jeckel or whoever is blathering away, but still get the ambient sound. When the TV broadcasters go on strike in Italy you get the race this way – I rather like it.

          • ccotenj Sunday, 16 August 2015, 4:37 pm

            yup, live and free from the app… you get the “most” coverage that way as well… tour of utah was start to finish, every stage, i don’t know how “complete” this one will be….

            http://www.usaprocyclingchallenge.com/media-press/tourtracker

            what’s “interesting” is that you also can get it the way you mention, if you are a universal sports subscriber (and use a “tv” provider that they have a deal with*), you can stream whatever coverage they have on the tv channel…

            * their provider list is incomplete, someone like me who uses verizon fios is sol, even though i subscribe to the package that gets me universal sports on tv…

          • ccotenj Sunday, 16 August 2015, 4:54 pm

            also, and i don’t know if this will be true of the colorado vacation (i like that term 🙂 ), but the bit rate for the tour of utah was pretty darn good… i used the app and sent the video to an appletv so i could watch on my projector, and the video quality was more than acceptable…

        • Larry T. Sunday, 16 August 2015, 6:09 pm

          Grazie mille for the details on viewing. I’ll try it out tomorrow and see what happens.

          • ccotenj Sunday, 16 August 2015, 7:14 pm

            prego… 🙂

        • SeeingElvis Sunday, 16 August 2015, 8:14 pm

          ccotenj,

          “we will keep paul in a special booth on the side for his encyclopedic knowledge of castles and so on… as far as phil, well, they are always hiring “greeters” at walmart… :)”

          Hilarious. Of course, Phil would be following shoppers around, “There goes Mary, tapping out the rhythm of her shopping cart…”

          • ccotenj Monday, 17 August 2015, 2:08 am

            🙂

            someone needs to do a “phil works at a walmart” cartoon… there is endless material to work with… 🙂

  • Mitch Saturday, 15 August 2015, 4:41 pm

    Great post, as usual.

    I’d add one more reason why the Vuelta is ascending – it may be the only realistic GT double. Giro + Vuelta and skip the Tour. Or go for the Tour. Accomplishments of roughly equal weight, but tilted toward the Tour of course.

    In any season there are only one or two who can realistically see themselves as a lock for the Tour. This year it was Froome. The other GC contenders can go for the double.

    • gabriele Saturday, 15 August 2015, 6:58 pm

      This year it was Quintana 😉

      But Froome was lucky enough to have a team who made him *keep the faith*, despite his legitimate frustration when he saw the course.
      And another (separate) team who made him keep the yellow jersey ^___^

      Last year it was probably Contador. But Nibali (or Astana) was brave enough to skip the beloved Giro and try his luck in France. Well done.

      • Anonymous Sunday, 16 August 2015, 12:45 pm

        Why Contador for last year’s Tour and not Froome?

        • gabriele Monday, 17 August 2015, 7:31 pm

          Because Froome was having an overall weak year: too many troubles in his preparation (hitting the deck quite a lot, health issues, doping – or *near* doping – questions in the team, racing even less than present-day reduced standards, like twenty-some days before the Tour?) and, until now, he definitely looks like a rider who tends to succumb or underperform in not-perfect circumstances.

          • Anonymous Tuesday, 18 August 2015, 9:40 am

            thanks – probably right

    • Anonymous Sunday, 16 August 2015, 12:48 pm

      As we saw, Froome was nowhere near ‘a lock’.

  • Shawn Saturday, 15 August 2015, 7:28 pm

    I really prefer the style of racing at the Vuelta & Giro over the Tour. Among other factors is that it is rare for a team to bring a dominant squad that can attempt to control the race. It isn’t just that some major stars skip these tours (or for whom they are training or a consolation prize) but that the major contenders don’t have the support they might at the Tour. This makes for much less predictable outcomes & more aggression.

    • Anonymous Monday, 17 August 2015, 9:00 am

      Agree

      • Anonymous Monday, 17 August 2015, 10:15 am

        Yes.

  • Grant Saturday, 15 August 2015, 7:33 pm

    In terms of predictability and excitement, the Tour is well behind the Giro and Vuelta.

    • Anonymous Sunday, 16 August 2015, 12:47 pm

      Movistar could have changed that at this year’s Tour. It’s not inevitable.

  • MultiplexRant Sunday, 16 August 2015, 12:58 am

    As a cycling hipster I sneer at the whited sepulchran delights of La Vuelta and will instead be watching hooky feeds of the Ronde van Midden-Nederland and Tour de Hokkaido.

    Only kidding – I’ll be watching football, of course. I do get cycling fatigue post Tour (though I enjoy Eneco) and aside from the Worlds, ToB (because I can usually get to a stage) and Lombardy, I tend to be done by now. INRNG summed it up nicely – I will indeed be skulking around the seedier recesses of the internet for a taste of Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne or the Tour of Oman come next February, by which point I’ll be well and truly sick of footy.

    One thing that always gets me about the Vuelta – I don’t know why, but this is a big thing for me – is that there never seems to be any coherence to the route. In the Tour the ‘bouclé’ tells a story. The Vuelta route looks like one of those newfangled heat map things they use on Match Of The Day – a load of random lines.

    • Finn Monday, 17 August 2015, 12:20 am

      They had the whole Camino de Santiago thing last year that was pretty good “story”

  • Henrique Sunday, 16 August 2015, 1:16 am

    Honestly, it’s fun to see a GT without big names (tLking about the Giro) I imagine “big” young names next year. Maybe fabio aru will get his gt and, if that’s the case, we should see great crowds. Also, other young gc riders may appear.

    • ccotenj Sunday, 16 August 2015, 4:22 pm

      judging from all the various scuttlebutt and “reporting” (term used lightly), nibali is going to the giro next year, and aru will lead the team at the tour…

      nibali should draw the crowds… i will admit to a total unfamiliarity with how the italians “rate” their riders, but i would like to think that the shark still has plenty of admirers there…

      and aru will get destroyed in the tour… which pains me to say, because i like the guy and would like to see him do well… i’m rather fond of athletes who show their full emotional spectrum… but he has “thibaut pinot” written all over him…

      • Sam Sunday, 16 August 2015, 4:32 pm

        IMO, Aru is not only a much better climber and more aggressive rider, but he’s also much stronger mentally. I haven’t seen him on the kind of roleur terrain likely to bombard the first week of the Tour, but I think the podium is a realistic goal for Aru’s first Tour.

        • ccotenj Sunday, 16 August 2015, 5:27 pm

          fair enough opinion to hold… although i stand by mine… 🙂 i reserve the right to change my mind after the vuelta… although astana has a chance of completely making a mess tactically in the vuelta, given the projected makeup of the team… either vino is gonna get his gt win for the year, or they are going to screw it up royally…

          gonna be a tough tour podium to crack, assuming froome, quintana and contador will be there… short of a pretty large progression in form, aru isn’t in f/q’s league, and since it will be contador’s last tour, i expect him to be in his best possible form and to be very well supported, assuming oleg doesn’t go completely off his rocker between now and then, which isn’t an entirely safe assumption… 🙂

          • Doctornurse Monday, 17 August 2015, 1:49 pm

            Meh… Astana and Movistar is giong to have to make a decision about leadership in this race.

            Dithering about naming Landa as the clear leader in the Giro when Aru faltered, and Valverde’s now legendary inability to sacrifice himself for a teammate led to both ASTANA and Movistar racing to guarantee 2 podium places instead of taking the risk for 1 win in the Giro and the TdF.

            ASTANA raced the Giro to support Aru, not to win… When they finally Cracked Contador on the Colle de Finstre it was too late and the man rode his own pace in the mountains, happy to lose 2 minutes because he was guaranteed Pink in spite of ASTANA having 2 men on the podium, and having obviously the strongest team with 5(!) stage wins…

            Movistar used the same conservative, (dare I say selfish?) Valverdian tactics that we have seen time and time again. Valverde’s clear unwillingness to gracefully cede leadership, and sacrifice himself, (for example on the Mur de Huy), meant that all Froome had to do was stick to the (admittedly very effective) Powerpoint strategy the SKY boffins dreamed up, because no one put him under any serious pressure before the first rest day.

            Mix in the fact that Movistar failed to prepare for crosswinds AGAIN and their fascination with chasing down threats to their podium places (like when Contador attacked on the Glandon) as opposed to putting pressure on SKY for the win and the TdF was decided early on.

            I am no fan of Froome, but the man has a ridiculous engine, and is completely undroppable- By spending time, men and energy prioritising a sure podium place over the more risky chance at a win. Consequently, they only gave Quintana a few opportunities to gamble on “all-in” attacks on the final 3-5k of the final summit finishes in the Alps- Yes, he gained more time on Froome than he lost, but it was not enough…

            As with ASTANA in the Giro, as soon as Movistar fully committed to Quintana and Valverde accepted his full domestique role then Boom! they send Winner Anacona on the attack… Pow! Valverde winnows the group down further and then and then WHAM! Quintana finshes it off. Of course they promptly cracked Froome (who-like Porte, Thomas and most of his team looked a bit second hand for the entire 3rd week), but it was just too damn late.

            Froome is a superb athlete, but he is requires careful care and feeding from his team until the last 5-10k of any stage. He rides to a number and a pre-prepared plan and has consistently shown a massive weakness when it comes to tactical improvisation and cannot freelance his way to a win- he has poor racecraft and does not have the instinct, guts and guile to manufacture something from nothing.

            At 185cm and what? 65kg when on top form? I query his reserves and ability to recover given that he has consistently gotten weaker in the 3rd week of the GTs he won. His bike handling is adequate, (not quite a “Schleckian” disaster), he likes to paint himself as a martyr and/or a victim and is very happy to take any ethical shortcuts that he can (FedEX TUE for Cortisol enyone?). That said, he is as stubborn as a mule, and has an elite aerobic and completely freakish anaerobic capacity.

            The best way to beat Froome is to attack him in numbers and with intent early, often and unpredictably. ASTANA, BMC and the other GC teams must be willing to let some of their elite talent off the leash in the first week of the Vuelta to put SKY under pressure, (Stage 2 would be a lovely opportunity to do just that) and force Froome to get his ass out the saddle.

            Review any of Contador’s wins, and you will see how effective that sort or early and/or surprise attack can be in setting up victories… Yes, he also risks podiums, but its why the man has won all the GTs at least twice…

            If teame race conservatively AGAIN, then in spite of this stellar line up, the Vuelta will be a passionless procession that prioritises watts, tactics and sponsorship priorities over panache and taking the risks needed to win.

            I hope not, but the riders make the race…

  • Strictly Amateur Sunday, 16 August 2015, 2:48 am

    Off topic, however the relevant page is closed to comment…

    Has anyone from the U.S. ordered an INRNG jersey from Prendas Ciclismo?

    The site shows UK money denominations; how does it work? Do Americans in the U.S. just order it and it will convert it?

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 16 August 2015, 12:57 pm

      Seems to work well, I know readers have got their jersey in the US, Canada etc. Any questions ask the shop as they very good and personable with questions and service.

    • Larry T. Sunday, 16 August 2015, 4:01 pm

      I’ve ordered stuff from Prendas to be shipped to the USA. Don’t remember how the financial transaction was done exactly, but both Paypal and most credit card/banks have no trouble paying them in British pounds and charging you the equivalent in US dollar. At one time they were pretty much the only way to get Santini products in the US though these days they have their own US import/distribution setup.

    • No worries Monday, 17 August 2015, 8:14 am

      As an Australian who orders in non-Australian currencies for many online purchases: fear not. Just order as normal, and depending on how you’ve paid either paypal or your credit card company will convert your US dollars into UK pounds. You will likely be charged a small international currency conversion fee for this.

      (The idea of having enough websites available to sell you things you want in your currency that you have never encountered this before is amazing to me. One of those moments that reminds me that as global as the world is, there is still a lot of diversity.)

  • Anonymous Sunday, 16 August 2015, 11:22 am

    Hopefully, the UCI will get rid of the points system – or find a way of rewarding domestiques. Otherwise, they lose a lot of their value, unfairly. Probably best to get rid of it – for the reasons in the article: teams are less likely to stop riders from riding.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 16 August 2015, 11:51 am

      The UCI’s changed the system so teams are ranked on the basis of only their top riders. This means domestiques don’t need to have points to be highly valued, unlike the system before.

      • Anonymous Sunday, 16 August 2015, 1:10 pm

        Thanks.

  • Richard S Sunday, 16 August 2015, 11:53 am

    As a sporting contest I’d say the Vuelta has had the upper hand on the Giro in recent years. It’s had every big name GC rider of recent times contending at some point. You also tend to get big name classic riders turning up – Gilbert, Cancellara, Degenkolb, Stybar et al – giving exciting transition stages and sprints. Despite this, for me, it’s not a patch on the Giro. The Giro is spectacular and dramatic and beautiful. Spain at this time of year is parched and just lacking that little something that Italy has.

  • Othersteve Monday, 17 August 2015, 12:46 am

    Thanks INRNG,

    As a summery of lots of previous posts, the Velta is like going into the fridge at the end of a long period of
    consuming wonderful meals ( TDF/Giro) and the leftovers many times turn out to be as good as or better then the originals GT’s. While you know that you will not have another real satisfying GT for many week to come.

    • noel Monday, 17 August 2015, 10:24 am

      nicely put Othersteve!… I can relate to that (altho maybe more in terms of eating Friday night’s curry takeaway leftovers on the following Monday – usually surprisingly delicious…)

  • Ray McGillicuddy Monday, 17 August 2015, 2:50 am

    Prediction; if Froome wins the Vuelta he will ride the Giro and probably attempt the Giro/Tour double next year.

    If he wins the Vuelta this sets up the possibility of holding all three GTs at once, a great achievement which would give Sky a fallback position if Froome won the 2016 Giro and attempted but was unable to clinch the Giro/Tour double.

    Obviously this all hinges on Froome winning the Vuelta which is far from certain, and then being able to win the Giro, however I believe it is possible if the cards land the right way and besides Contador I think he is the only rider currently capable of it.

    Maybe.

    • Salsiccia Monday, 17 August 2015, 12:55 pm

      A lot will depend on the parcours of the respective races. If the Giro wants to attract Froome et al, they’d need to make the race a lot easier so making the double a more realistic proposition, but as it is Contador’s exertions have made it clear that a hard Giro followed by the Tour is unrealistic. And that’s a real pity, as I’d love to see Froome give the Giro a go, it’s usually the hardest GT with the most rewarding parcours; and I think the Italian public would make Froome more welcome. A Froome/Quintana/Nibali/Contador rematch, when all are fresh, would be something to savour.

  • MC Monday, 17 August 2015, 11:27 am

    Froome will win every race unless he is convicted of doping (thrilling).

    • Graham Monday, 17 August 2015, 12:01 pm

      Yeah, just like last year. Yawn.

  • Paul Tuesday, 18 August 2015, 1:47 pm

    The most optimistic article I’ve read on the Vuelta for quite a while!

    There still seems to be the occasional grumblings from up on high about cutting it down to a two week race. I don’t think I’ve ever met a cycling fan who agrees with doing that.

  • BianchBoy Wednesday, 19 August 2015, 10:18 am

    I love the Vuelta. Great article.

    I love it for the same reason as I love the Giro. The racing just seems more raw, more aggressive.

    Whereas the Tour is spellbinding for the sheer drama of it all, the Vuelta brings out the demon in teams and riders.

    And the fact ITV4 is highlighting this year makes me happier than a happy man in happy land. I have been suffering terrible Tour withdrawal. After watching cycling for nearly 30 years, I felt this year like I might be starting to understand it…

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