La Vuelta. Find out more about the history of La Vuelta a España and its most famous winners - Miguel Indurain, Alberto Contador, Carlos Sastre.
The Tour of Spain
The Vuelta Ciclista a España, or the Tour of Spain, takes place annually at the end of the summer season and forms part of cycling’s world renowned three week long tours, together with the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. The Tour of Spain’s inaugural event took place in 1935, with just 50 participating riders passing through its 14 stages, and although certainly having increased substantially in scale since then, the Spanish Tour perhaps shares less of the tradition and history associated with those in France and Italy. The format of the race developed however, and grew to take place over a 23 day period, made up of 21 stages and 2 rest days. Some previous winners of La Vuelta have included some of Sport’s biggest names; amongst these, Bernard Hinault (France) in 1978 and again in 1983 and Tony Rominger (Switzerland) for three consecutive years, in 1992, 93 and 94, and Roberto Heras (Spain) in 2000, 2003 and 2004. Impressively, Spain’s own Alberto Contador has been one of just 5 cyclists to have won first place in all three road cycling Grand Tours, winning the Vuelta a España in 2008. Notably, also from Spain, at just age 20 in 1985, Miguel Indurain became the youngest rider ever to lead the Vuelta a España.
The Spanish Tour was originally conceived by those in charge of the daily newspaper at the time, Informaciones, inspired by the impact they had witnessed the Italian and French tours share on the circulation of both La Gazzetta dello Sport and L’Auto in their respective countries after having sponsored the races. Despite initial disruption to the schedule of the races, with the Second World War and the Spanish Civil War both interfering with the annual race calendar, yearly races have taken place since 1955. In terms of the route followed by the Vuelta, Spain’s terrain tends to favor climbing specialists; with its handful of mountains, most notably the 8 mile climb to 5000 feet at the Alto de el Angliru in Asturias, occasionally deterring cyclists most suited to sprint style races. A notable climbing specialist is Spain’s Carlos Sastre, who achieved consistently good results in both the Tour de France and the Vuelta. The route does vary year on year, but two time trials remain a consistent characteristic; firstly in the Pyrenees, and also the end of the race in Spain’s Capital City, Madrid.
Just as in the Giro d’Italia with the maglia rosa, or the Tour de France with the maillot jaune, the leader of the tour traditionally wears a specifically colored jersey, but the color of this jersey for the Vuelta has been subject to multiple changes over the decades, though it started out as orange in 1935. These changing colors are usually the result of new race sponsors, and while the jersey for leader in overall ranking remained yellow gold for decades; in 2010 it became red after some confusion with Tour de France’s maillot jaune. Since 1979, Unipublic have been the event organizers, and participants come from a variety of countries. As a UCI world tour event, with the exception of any wild card teams, most competing teams are UCI Pro teams, and La Vuelta attracts a large crowd, enjoying a fantastic international reputation on the cycling landscape.