Vuelta a España, which literally translates to the Tour of Spain, is one of the most iconic men’s road cycling tours. It takes place every year between August and September and it lasts for three weeks.
But which are the origins of the Vuelta a España? Which are the shirts given to the riders during the race and what is their meaning?
Let’s discover the history and curiosities of this fantastic bike tour.
Vuelta a España – A Brief History
The Tour of Spain, or Vuelta, how the locals call it, was born in 1935 and is the youngest of the three iconic cycling tours in Europe.
Vuelta was, in fact, inspired by the Tour of France and Tour of Italy, and was born more or less in the same way as the other two tours. Juan Pujol, the chief editor at the newspaper l’Informaciones, stole the idea of the bike tour to promote and raise the sales of the newspaper.
The first edition of the race was dominated by the Belgian Gustaaf Deloor, who conquered the historic first seal.
The second edition of the race, held in 1936, was disputed in a Spain involved in social struggles; many thought that the race could serve to ease the tensions but the event didn’t succeed and the situation worsened, leading to the complete stop of all sporting events.
However, Deloor took home the second title, breaking a new record as far as the Vuelta is concerned.
But the strong tensions present in Spain soon spread throughout Europe, reaching their highest peak during the Second World War. By necessity, the Vuelta was not disputed between 1937 and 1940.
The race reassumed in 1941 and 1942, with both races being won by the Spaniard Julián Berrendero. But the upcoming events and the continuation of the war led again to the suspension of the Tour of Spain, which will only reassume in 1945 with the victory of Delio Rodriguez.
In the post-war period, the race continued to be disputed, albeit not constantly. In fact, from 1949 to 1955 was held a single edition in 1950.
The Tour of Spain registers an epochal change in 1955. From this year on, the Vuelta will be disputed every year uninterruptedly, entering the calendar of the three most important UCI World Tour races.
1995 marked another epochal turning point in the history of the race. From this edition on, Vuelta a España will take place in late summer or early fall instead of spring, to avoid the overlapping with Giro d’Italia. From the first edition and until the mid-90s, the race was disputed between April and June.
The Record Of Maertens
The first edition to enter in the history of the Tour of Spain was that of 1977, won by the Belgian Freddy Maertens. The cyclist dominated the race, winning 13 out of 20 stages. Moreover, the cyclist was a leader in the classification from start to finish.
But what made the Belgian’s success extraordinary – beyond the obvious dominance of the race – was the fact that he conquered the Vuelta as a world champion.
Maertens remained in the history of Vuelta a España as an authentic record and no one else have ever won 13 out of 20 stages. Moreover, nobody else kept the leading role from the beginning to the end.
In the same year, Maertens was involved in a terrible accident during Giro d’Italia, an accident that conditioned the continuation of his career in the following years.
Heras – A Myth Of The Vuelta
Roberto Heras is the cyclist who has won the most editions of the race, with four active victories. Not only, but Heras also registered three consecutive victories in 2003, 2004, and 2005. In 2002, the cyclist almost registered the victory but lost in front of Aitor González.
Due to a presumed positive anti-doping test, Heras was declassified as a winner for the race of 2005 but in 2012 he received the title back.
In the last decade, the only other cyclist who registered multiple victories was Alberto Contador who won the 2008 and 2014 editions.
Vuelta a España – Ranking And Jerseys
Wondering how the racers gather points during the Vuelta a España? The system is very simple. 25 points are awarded to the winner of each stage, 20 points to the second arrived, 16 to the third place and 14 points to the fourth competitor.
The final ranking is calculated taking into account the general rankings of the race, as well as any bonus points received for the conquest of the summits. It wins the racer who gathers most points during the stages.
As all respectable road races, Vuelta a España has its own jerseys that designate the leaders and the winners.
The red jersey was introduced in 2010 and is given to the leader of the general classification. The history of this jersey is troubled, and the color has undergone several changes over time.
In fact, the original color of the jersey was orange, then it changed to white, only to return to its original color.
Red was introduced for the first time in 1945, but the color was subsequently changed to white with a red stripe.
From 1955 to 1999, the jersey was yellow. But once this color identified with the Tour of France, the organizers of Vuelta changed it to gold. Since 2010, the jersey returned to red.
Blue And White Polka Dots Jersey
Reserved to the leader of the uphill stages, this jersey is one of the most acclaimed by the public. In fact, uphill stages give the most emotions to the watchers.
The green jersey is assigned to the best sprinter. The athlete who receives this jersey has probably concentrated all his efforts during the final stages of the race, trying to win the first place of the stage with the help of team strategies.
The white jersey is assigned, since 2002, to the leader of the points classification.
Vuelta a España is an exciting race, the third most important road cycling race in the world. It has a troubled but beautiful history and each year, the stages take athletes and watchers through the mesmerizing landscape of Spain.
Undoubtedly, an event to attend at least once in the lifetime.