The Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) is the last Grand Tour of the year. It’s our final chance to watch the precarious peloton speeding over the asphalt, and luckily we get more than three weeks of action. This year’s Vuelta also promises to be quite the spectacle with quite a few heavy mountain stages. So, to get in the mood for the 2018 Vuelta a España, we have listed seven interesting facts for you here.
The youngest Grand Tour
The Vuelta is not as old as the Giro and the Tour, but it has been around for more than eighty years—since 1935, to be precise. This year will only be the 73rd edition, however, since between 1937 and 1940 the Vuelta was called off due to the Spanish Civil War. Between 1943 and 1944, the Vuelta was also disrupted by the Second World War (in which Spain did not interfere). The Vuelta was similarly disrupted in the year 1949, and from 1951 to 1954, which could have something to do with the unrest related to then-dictator Franco.
Spaniards on top
Of the 73 times that the Vuelta has been organised, Spaniards themselves have been the most successful riders. They’ve won this tour no less than 32 times—since 2000, the Vuelta has been won 11 times by the Spanish. Six different Spanish riders were responsible for the jersey-hogging of late, the most recent being Alberto Contador in 2014. The Netherlands has stood on the highest level twice in the history of the competition: Jan Janssen managed to do it in 1967, and Joop Zoetemelk was the second Dutch winner in 1979.
The Vuelta used to be raced in the spring
Today we know the Vuelta as the last Grand Tour of the year. In the past, however, this race was held in the spring. This was the case up to and including 1995. Eventually it was moved to avoid competition with the Giro d’Italia, and since then we get to watch the Vuelta often at the end of August—a very hot time in Spain. The heat is an extra challenge for the peloton, in addition to the already challenging course.
The many colours of the leader’s jersey
The leader of the Vuelta nowadays wears a red jersey. But this hasn’t always been the case: in 1935 it was an orange jersey; in 1941 it was white; in 1942 it was again orange; and from 1945 to 1950 the jersey was white with a red stripe. Between 1950 and 1997 it was, just like in the Tour, even a yellow jersey. In 1998 they gave the yellow leader’s jersey a dark golden colour, and eventually changed the colour to red in 2010. Since then the leader of the general classification has been racing in red.
Only started abroad three times
Where the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia increasingly organise a foreign start, the Vuelta is very loyal to its Spanish roots. Only thrice has it begun abroad. Lisbon had the honour in 1997, followed by the Dutch city of Assen in 2009, and Nimes, in France, in 2017. This year the Vuelta will start in the second largest city in Andalusia: Málaga.
The Vuelta has been won most times by the Spaniard Roberto Heras. The first time he did so was in 2000. Then he stood on the top podium step again in 2003, 2004 and 2005. However, that last victory was taken away after the end of the race due to a doping charge. Heras appealed against this ruling, and in 2012 was assimilated by the Spanish court. Because of this, this victory is still in his name.
Horner is the oldest winner
In 2013, the Vuelta got a striking winner with Chris Horner. Horner was at that time more than 41 years old and had never competed for the prizes in a Grand Tour. His best result, before the win of the Vuelta, was a ninth place in the Tour de France and a few victories in the Tour of California. Winning the Vuelta was a crown on the work of the 41-year-old rider, and we do not think there will ever be a rider older than Horner with a race like this to his name.