It astounds me how a major race can completely pass me by. I know I won’t ever know about everything going on, but a major race? I mean a really major race? How come I’ve never heard of it?
Running from Saturday Agust 20th to Sunday September 11th 2011, the 66th Vuelta a España will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,300 kilometres. These stages have the following profiles:
- 9 flat stages,
- 10 mountain stages
- 1 team time-trial stage
- 1 individual time-trial stage
This is a three-week road-bicycle-racing stage race that is one of the three “Grand Tours” of Europe and part of the UCI World Ranking calendar. It lasts 3 weeks and is broken into day-long segments. Individual times to finish each stage are totalled to determine the overall winner at the end of the race. The rider with the lowest aggregate time at the end of each day wears the Red Jersey.
This team event competition attracts cyclists from around the world.
The distinctive aspects about the race are the:
- 6 summit finishes
- 2 rest days
- 14 km. team time-trial
- 40 km. individual time-trial stage
The Vuelta a España was first run in 1935 with 50 entrants. In the history of the race it has been stopped twice: once during the Spanish Civil War and then again during World World II. There have now been no breaks since 1955. 2011 has 18 international teams, 4 Spanish teams and a total of 198 riders.
photo courtesy of msr
The Vuelta a España is one of the top 3 cycling events in Europe along with the Tour de France and Italy’s The Giro. Two of the 3 races, along with the UCI Road World Championship, make up the Triple Crown of Cycling considered to be the greatest achievement possible for a cyclist. This formidable achievement has been won only twice before by Belgium’s Eddy Merckx in 1974 and Ireland’s Stephen Roche in 1987.
This year, for the first time in 33 years, the route will pass through the Basque Country – a route that has not been deemed to be safe since 1978, but the Basque Government have fought hard to bring the race back into the region and finally they have succeeded. Carlos Sastre, the winner of the 2008 Tour de France, commented, “The race will be hard, with explosive finishes. But we can be happy when there’s a route like this that favours climbers”. Last year’s winner and this year’s defending champion, Italy’sVincenzo Nibali agrees, “It is a very hard Vuelta.”
The favourites this year are Vincenzo Nibali, the young Basque cyclist Igor Anton, and two of the race veterans Denis Menchov and Andreas Kloden. 7 stages have been completed, 14 to go… and Nibali is currently in 3rd place in the overall time aggregrate.