Earlier this week, Chris Froome confirmed that he’d be heading up Team Sky in the Vuelta a España 2016, which starts tomorrow. So what is this prestigious cycling event and who else will be competing in this year’s race?
What is the Vuelta a España?
La Vuelta, as it’s also known, is a multi-stage road race, which takes place in Spain (although the route also sometimes passes through other countries) every year. It’s one of the sport’s three Grand Tours, the others being the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, and it’s part of the UCI World Tour.
The inaugural La Vuelta took place in 1935 and, since then, it’s been won by some of the sport’s biggest names, including Bernard Hinault, Eddy Mercx and Tony Rominger. The leader of the race, in terms of recorded times, gets to wear the red jersey, while the overall victor earns the right to raise the trophy – a contemporary glass bowl – aloft. There’s also a huge prize fund at stake.
What Does La Vuelta Involve?
The Vuelta a España usually incorporates two or three time trials, as well as some arduous sections involving steep climbs and fast descents. Whilst the race’s route changes each year, most editions feature stages in the Pyrenees and end in a Spanish city (usually Madrid).
This year’s race begins in Ourense and features ten summit finishes, followed by a final sprint into the Spanish capital on September 11.
The Vuelta a España 2016 – Chris Froome to Take on the Challenge
The most famous British cyclist to be competing in the 2016 event is, without doubt, Chris Froome. The Kenyan-born road racing star won the bronze medal in the men’s time trial in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, after claiming the Tour de France title for the third time in July.
Froome will be particularly keen to get his hands on the coveted cycling trophy, as he told the BBC that he has “unfinished business” with the event. In 2011, he finished as the runner-up to Juan José Cobo while, in 2014, Alberto Contador forced him to settle for second place. Froome’s 2015 race finished in disaster: he crashed into a barrier during the eleventh stage, breaking a bone in his foot.
He’ll be up against some tough competition again this year, with big names such as Alberto Contador, Esteban Chaves, Tejay van Garderen, Phillipe Gilbert and Nairo Quintana on the starting list.
Other British Competitors to Watch Out For
Four other British cyclists are set to tackle this year’s Vuelta a España:
- Peter Kennaugh – competing alongside Chris Froome for Team Sky, Peter was part of the British team which won the gold medal in the team pursuit at London 2012. He also won the first stage of the 2014 Tour of Austria, and triumphed at the National Road Race Championships in 2014 and 2015. Earlier this year, he won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
- Simon Yates – The 24-year-old, who won the sixth stage of the 2013 Tour of Britain and a gold medal in the points race in the 2013 World Championships, will be racing for Australian team, Orica-Bike Exchange.
- Hugh Carthy – Winner of the 2014 Tour of Korea, the 22-year-old, from Lancashire, will be competing for Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, one of four teams given wildcard entries for this year’s race. He became the first British rider to win the Vuelta a Asturias earlier this year.
- Scott Thwaites – Likely to be competing at La Vuelta for another wildcard team, Bora-Argon 18, Scott won a bronze medal in the road race at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He came fifth in this year’s National Road Race Championships.
Are you a keen cyclist? Which is your favourite Grand Tour race? Share your views in the comments section.