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Beautiful and Cruel La Vuelta

By Adam Ulrich

The 69th edition of the Spanish Grand Tour, La Vuelta 2014, is comprised of 5 flat stages, 13 mountain stages, 1 team time trial stage and 2 individual time trial stages.

Cycling : 68th Tour of Spain 2013 / Stage 20
(The famous Santiago De Compostela cathedral. Photo: Profimedia.cz)

Running from Saturday August 23rd to Sunday September 14th, 2014, La Vuelta will cover a total distance of 3181.5 km. It will start in Jerez de la Frontera and finish in the famous northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela. Together with Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, La Vuelta is one of the most important cycling events in the world.  No wonder it attracts successful companies like SKODA who has been its main sponsor since 2011.

Cycling : 68th Tour of Spain 2013 / Stage 11
(A horse-riding fan in a traditional hat watches Polish rider Rafal Majka. Photo: Profimedia.cz)

A Stellar Start List

Four big names that crashed out of the Tour de France are likely to race in La Vuelta. Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Andrew Talansky and Mark Cavendish, none of whom made it to Paris, are in the line-up for this season’s third Grand Tour race.

Cycling - Tour of Spain - Stage 8
(Alberto Contador abandoned the 2014 Tour de France. Will he be luckier during La Vuelta? Photo: Profimedia.cz)

Other big names include Peter Sagan, Giro d’Italia winner Nairo Quintana, who opted out of the Tour de France this year in order to train in the Andes, 2009 La Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde, Tom Boonen, Rigoberto Urán, and even three-time defending world time trial champion Tony Martin. But there are many others who would like to fight for victory.

Cycling: 53th Vuelta Pais Vasco 2013/ Stage 4
(In 2013, French rider Jean-Christophe Peraud crashed only a few meters from the Stage 4 finish. Photo: Profimedia.cz)

The Race

The race was first held in 1935 when Juan Pujol brought the Grand Tour concept to Spain. Since 1955, La Vuelta has been held annually and began to pick up speed, thanks to the French and Italian cyclists of the day and then increasingly more so throughout the late ’60s with Eastern European cyclists joining the race.

Cycling : 68th Tour of Spain 2013 / Stage 14
(In the mountain stages of La Vuelta, the weather is unpredictable. Photo: Profimedia.cz )

During the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, La Vueltabecame more of a cycling staple worldwide and winners of La Vuelta gained international recognition, such as Eddy Merckx and Jan Ullrich of Germany along with Carlos Sastre of Spain.

Cycling : 67th Tour of Spain 2012 / Stage 13
(Sometimes the fog is so heavy the riders are barely visible. Photo: Profimedia.cz )

Originally held in the spring, in 1955 the race moved to August/September to avoid direct competition with the Giro di Italia. Since the move, La Vuelta has been considered an important preparation race for the World Championships in October, but this is no longer the case, especially when the race has such a starting-listfull of stars, as it does this year.