The Tour de France is three weeks of great racing and is known as cycling’s premiere event.
That doesn’t mean it’s the best.
Of the three grand tours, the Vuelta a Espana easily ranks as my favorite. Am I saying this to be a contrarian just to get you to ready my articles?
Normally yes, but today’s Friday. I hate writing articles on Friday.
I’m tired from the whole week that I’m normally looking to throw anything out there.
Not today. You’ll see by the length that I’ve put a lot of thought into this and I mean what I say in that the Vuelta will be better than Le Tour just like it is every year.
Racers come to race – At the Tour de France, the contenders don’t try to win as much as they try not to lose. I don’t know if riders are afraid of getting embarrassed on a grand stage or their sponsors want more airtime, but the real racing only seems to happen after the outcome already seems to be determined and riders want to make up ground. You could say this year was the exception, but I think Chris Froome was being aggressive because he was bored of winning.
The Vuelta is the last chance for GC riders to win a major, so they come hungry and ready to take risks. This puts a lot more heat on the top contenders and they really start to tire by the end. If you compare the two races the last few years, there have been far more lead changes in the Vuelta during the final week. Just saying.
Less sprinting – If you look at the top 8 finishers in the points competition for the Tour de France(and add Mark Cavendish who won four stages), none of them will be appearing in the Vuelta. This isn’t a sprinter’s race, so why should they show?
The only positive about having sprint stages is I fast forward them to the end leaving me more time to catch up on the meatier stages.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the TDF’s #9 finisher in the green jersey will be racing the Vuelta: Chris Froome.
Uphill finishes – Aren’t uphill finishes the best races to watch? Just watching the lead group wilt away while everyone’s twitchily rubbernecking to see who’s going to make a move is always high drama for me.
This year’s Vuelta has ten uphill stages finishing on categorized climbs while Le Tour only had four. That’ll wear people out and leave for some interesting racing. This is another reason why teams are looking to add another domestique on their roster over a sprinter.
Home sweet home – Watching the Vuelta reminds me of a familiar place: California. Those dry, craggy mountains reminds me of plenty of the terrain around and about Los Angeles.
It just whets my appetite about having a grand tour here, something I questioned the pros about a few months ago. Maybe one year we could race it in California, but label the video that it’s happening in Spain. Just like the moon landing.
Do you see how much the Spanish Mountains resemble California? That’s because this is California.
Big Timers – I alluded to this earlier, but don’t underestimate how much the top competitors want another chance to prove themselves. Nairo Quintana and Tejay van Garderen both were leading contenders at the TDF but never could ignite while Alberto Contador crashed out. They are all here.
Johan Chaves and Steven Krujswijk had top 4 finishes at the Giro are here ready to battle for the podium. There’s such a great field that even Chris Froome is here to make up for his narrow loss in 2011. Get ready to light some fireworks.
Team time trials – Time trials are a staple of stage races, but the individual ones are boring to watch. There’s very little context to understand what the cyclists are doing except when the time checks come up, but even then it’s still snooze city.
Team time trials are completely opposite. I’m fascinated to watch who is taking the pulls, how well organized their line is and who is just holding on for dear life. Phil Gaimon told me it’s his least favorite thing to do, which means it’s probably the toughest. Day one kicks off to this and I just can never get enough.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Here’s the one problem with the Vuelta. I’m not too sure how I’m going to watch it and I can’t quite remember show I did in the past.
NBC Sports Gold has a package where you could stream the Vuelta and a bunch of the better races for only $19.99.
Because race season is almost done, it leaves me at a pause, but still for three weeks of cycling entertainment, it still feels like a good value since you also get the upcoming World Championships.
Heck, the NFL Sunday Ticket is over $250 and you get only thirty days of live action.
Okay. I talked myself into it. This article just cost me twenty bucks!