The Tour of Spain, or the Vuelta a España as known in the native tongue, is the 3rd of the Grand Tours. Less revered than the Tour de France or the Giro d'Italia, though the Vuelta has a rich history of its own. The first edition in 1935 saw the 50 competing riders average a gallant 240km per stage, with the 3411km course split over as little as 14 stages. After just two editions, the Vuelta was postponed until 1941 because of the Spanish civil war, and only saw the points classification introduced in 1945 following it's re-introduction after the 2nd World War. Initially held in the Spring, by 1995 the race had been moved to August/September to avoid direct competition with the Giro in May.
Anquetil in the 1963 Vuelta a España, recording the 1st ever Grand Tour Treble.
Jaques Anquetil was the first cyclist in history to win all three Grand tours, followed by Felice Gimondi in 1968, Eddy Merckx in 1973 & Bernard Hinault in 1978. Alberto Contador conquered the Vuelta thirty years later to add to his Tour and Giro victories & Vincenzo Nibali added his name to this elite few following his win in 2010. The Cannibal's triumph at the 1973 Vuelta with Molteni however has never been matched, Merckx winning six stages overall and all individual classifications except that of the mountains class, where he came second. Here's the great man celebrating Vuelta victory in 1973...
'The Cannibal', Eddy Merckx celebrating his unparalleled victory at the 1973 Vuelta.
A young Roberto Heras riding his Gios Torino for Kelme-Costa Blanca in the Tour of Spain.
Tinkoff Saxo's Alberto Contador, who left this years Tour de France early after a nasty crash is looking for success at this year's Vuelta, with Chris Froome and his shadow merchant Nairo Quintano of Movistar, as well as the young Columbian Esteban Chaves who impressed last year, also keen for success.Chris Froome is yet to go all the way at the Vuelta a España, and after a strong first couple of days he's certainly looking like he means business. Most likely carrying over mild disappointment from missing out on gold at the Rio Olympics, our money's certainly on Froome to win his 2nd Grand Tour in the same calendar year.
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