The third and last major three-week stage race of the season ended today in Madrid. The Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) is perhaps the third highest in stature and significance, after May’s Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) and July’s Tour de France. Le Tour, of course, is the most important, because it has more strong riders and teams than the others; the Vuelta, for instance, left the American team RadioShack (Lance’s team) off the invitation list partly so that more Spanish teams could participate.
Le Tour also is the most difficult for riders, partly because the country of France offers a more diversified terrain, and partly because the organizers recognize that the premier of all road races has to offer the biggest challenges to riders. The disparity between the two was illustrated by the situation at the end of the Vuelta today. The top eleven finishers were within ten minutes of each other. In this year’s Tour, there were nearly 15 minutes between places 1 and 11, almost 50% greater. In short, while this year’s Vuelta offered a few good stage races and showcased some up-and-coming talent (not including this year’s second-place finisher in the Tour, Andy Schleck, who was dismissed from the race by his team for an egregious, drunken curfew infraction), it did not differentiate among the top finishers as clearly as the Tour’s more challenging course had done. On the bright side, American Tom Danielson finished ninth overall, and American Tyler Farrar reinforced his reputation as an emerging sprint champion by consistently finishing strong and taking a couple of first place finishes, including today’s finale.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.