This year, I’m headed to the Vuelta with Trek Travel. It’s more than a dream come true. It’s a life’s goal made real.
I’m no casual fan of bike racing. I’ve spent 20 years following every historic race on the pro calendar. Ask me to tell you about the closest Tour de France in history (it was eight seconds between Laurent Fignon and Greg Lemond in 1989). Ask me which stage Miguel Indurain won his fifth Tour de France in 1995 (time trial, stage 8). And ask me about the last Paris-Roubaix where it rained (2002 was a mud bath). But I’m going to let you in on a controversial secret that I’ve always held: The Vuelta a España, or Tour of Spain, is some of the best racing on the schedule. Don’t believe me? Consider the facts.
The “parcours” is par excellence. The “race parcours” is the route, and the Tour of Spain can’t be beat. The Spanish Pyrenees and Basque country are the climbing crown jewels of Europe. And when the rest of the world is drooling after the Alpe d’Huez, Galibier and climbs of the northern Alps, this region boasts of the steepest, intimate climbs in forested back-country. I remember when David Millar abandoned the Vuelta on the Angliru (featured this year as well), calling it “barbaric.” YOU’RE DARN RIGHT IT’S BARBARIC.
The crowds are awesome. The Spanish are nothing if they’re not insane sports fans, and cycling is no different. Have you ever seen Basques cheering at the Tour de France? They’re crazy. And the Vuelta is like 23 days of it. Please pass the sangria without spilling.
The pros go after it. The end of the Tour de France is famous for contract negotiations, where big deals are signed and allegiances are swapped. By the time we get to the Vuelta, the remaining unsigned pros are fighting for their careers, and therefore, they ride like their lives depend on it. That means more attacking, more risk-taking, more drama, and more quality racing. In fact, the Vuelta is where we discovered the careers of racers like Chris Froome, Alejandro Valverde, Juan Jose Cobo, Tony Martin’s famous all-day breakaway, and Chris Horner’s age-defying Grand Tour win.
Ahhh, Spain. Sure, France is incredibly romantic. Italy is a food-lover’s paradise. But Spain seems to have a little of it all. There’s a special passion that’s typically Spanish. There’s incredible tapas, local wines and seafood. And this is the birthplace of Picasso, Dali, Cervantes and Lorca. There must be something in the water.
Don’t get me wrong: every pro bike race is a slice of history, and every event features an epic battle in its own right. But I do believe that the Vuelta is special, and it’s why I jumped at the chance to go this year. Trek Travel also offers a unique view on an already special race, with Trek-Segafredo access and some special rides with Chechu Rubiera, former member of the Discovery cycling team. Hopefully he won’t mind if I want to discuss stage 19 of the 1997 Giro d’Italia, his first win. Or his top tens at the Vuelta itself. Or his time on team RadioShack. Or Discovery. Or….well, let’s just say I’m excited. And I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.
Stay tuned for Jordan’s post-Vuelta report to read if the race was as good as he imagined it would be. We’re sure it will be. And more.
Ready to explore Spain?