Starting to see Red
By Dave Land, posted 18 July 2017
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Dave gets himself all worked up about the third and final grand tour of the year, before the second one has even finished.
Is it too early to start thinking of all things Spanish? From ITV’s splendidly old-fashioned flamenco-meets-keyboards theme music, to the inevitable complaints about the heat, to the switch to drinking cervezas, we are already excited about the Vuelta D’Espagne.
Some of this comes from its role as the underdog. The British love an underdog, which does even more for the Vuelta’s standing. It is always considered the third of the grand tours. It is the youngest. And it has moved its time slot, from early season, to the end of August. Meaning, perhaps, that diehard fans consider it a bit flaky compared to the Giro and the Tour.
We simply don’t care. The fans are just as passionate, possibly more so, to make up for the lower TV viewers perhaps. It has this music video (see box). The racing is just as exciting, in fact, it is often more so. One reason for this is that the great role of the Vuelta is to offer redemption. Maybe a crash in the spring classics, maybe poor early season form, maybe not being picked for the Tour, maybe no expected stage wins in the tour, maybe you’re the second sprinter in a squad, maybe you have a need to prove that your contract should be extended, or that you are worth buying from somewhere else. Whatever it might be, the Vuelta offers the chance to rewrite the trajectory of the year. The glories of winning forgive all past mistakes. Contador and Froome both made it there following their crashes in 2014 tour. Jon Degenkolb sought it out when he found himself in a team with an on-form Marcel Kittel. David Millar bowed out of grand tours in the 2014 edition.
Promo Video for La Vuelta 2017. Find it on youtube.
Millar considered it his favourite race. Froomey is desperate to win there, for his sake. The Tour almost feels like a contractual agreement to try and win; the Vuelta is a passion. It might help if he took a team as strong as his Tour team, although that’s never going to quite happen. Even so, we imagine both Pete Kennuagh and Ian Stannard will be there, angry at their Tour exclusion, keen to prove that decision was a wrong one. Will Cavendish be back after injury? Surely Sagan will be very keen to be there – if he hasn’t had enough of the ridiculous rulings against him. All of them have the chance to be redeemed.
The Vuelta doesn’t demand that you are media savvy, or carefully PR controlled, it does instead demand some wicked climbing, and the ability to ride a team time trial. It’s a much rawer race. It might be that, finally, this year’s winner can win this finest of stage races by just riding their bike.