The most prestigious stage race in cycling is, of course, the Tour de France. Winning the Giro d’Italia or Vuelta a España however also gives you eternal fame in the cycling world. Since 1995, the Vuelta, the Tour of Spain, has been the last of the three Grand Tours.
The Vuelta is run in August and September, after the Giro and Tour have finished first. Riders who could not compete or were disappointing in Italy or France can therefore give it their all one last time in the Vuelta.
Of course, the winner of the red jersey is never just anyone, but there have been surprising winners in the past. Learn the history, how to bet on the Vuelta and more!
Set-up and route Vuelta a España
Like any Grand Tour, the Vuelta tries to set a challenging and varied route for the riders every year. Some elements do always recur in the Tour of Spain. For instance, they have plenty of mountains in Spain to climb, but the Pyrenees always feature in the stage schedule.
Spain’s geography lends itself perfectly to alternating mountain stages with hill stages and flat stages. What almost always recurs in the Vuelta however is the unrelenting heat. Where the Tour de France traditionally ends on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Vuelta concludes with a flat stage in Madrid.
In recent years, the three grand tours have also been making increasing visits abroad. The Tour de France does have its Grand Départ abroad almost every two-three years, with six times in the Netherlands so far. The Giro d’Italia has also started abroad almost every other year in recent years, with the Netherlands on three occasions since 2002.
Spain is being more careful in this regard. In 1997, the round started in Lisbon, in 2009 in Assen, in 2017 in Nîmes, France, and in 2022 in Utrecht (first planned in 2020). Occasionally, the Vuelta also crosses the border in between with neighbouring Portugal, France and Andorra.
General classification Vuelta a España
Like the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, you will find three well-known classifications at the Vuelta. Of course the one for the winner of the overall classification, but also the points jersey and mountains jersey. Until a few years ago, there was also the combination classification. Look out for these categories when betting on the Vuelta.
The leader in the general classification of the Vuelta gets to wear the red jersey. The colour of this jersey did change a lot over the years. It started with orange in 1935, became white once, then orange again, then white with a red stripe, then yellow for 40 years, gold for 12 years and red since 2010.
Like the Tour de France, the leader in the points classification rides in the green jersey. Until a few years ago, this was the blue jersey for a long time. The Vuelta decided to want to be more like the Tour. However, the points classification is not for sprinters as in the Tour.
Points are collected for classification in each stage. The higher you finish, the more points. 25 points for the stage winner, 20 for the number 2 and then 16-14-12-10 and through to 1. This is how typical climbers often win the points jersey in the Vuelta.
Polka dot jersey
Attackers with a good climb in their legs often target the polka dot jersey. The leader of this classification wears a white jersey with blue polka dots. Points are collected by being among the first riders to reach the top of a climb.
Just like in France, the best young rider in the classification wears the white jersey. This classification has only been held since 2017 and is for riders aged 25 or younger.
This classification was not kept after 2018 and was there with periods in the past. It was a listing of overall, points and mountain classification.
History of the Vuelta
Of the three grand tours, the Vuelta a España is the youngest. The Tour de France began in 1903 and the Giro d’Italia in 1909, interrupted only by World War I and World War II. The Vuelta a España was first run in 1935. The reason was the same as for the Tour and Giro: a national newspaper (Informaciones) organised the cycling race to generate more attention.
In the early years, the Vuelta was held in spring. In 1995 however, the round shifted to August and September to avoid competition with the Giro. In the early 1950s, the Vuelta was not run for a few years, but since 1955, the Tour of Spain has been there every year.
Winners Vuelta a España
From then on, there was also increasing enthusiasm from cyclists outside Spain. This came to a head in the 1960s and 1970s, when the first riders managed to win all three tours. Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault pulled this off. They were later followed by Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali. Interestingly, five-time Tour winner Miguel Indurain from Spain never won the Vuelta, so he is not in this list.
In the Tour de France, there are four riders who became the overall winners five times. In the Tour of Spain however, there is only one rider who won four times: Roberto Heras between 2000-2005. His 2005 victory was first taken away from him because of a positive doping test, and given to Rabobank rider Denis Menchov. Heras appealed and eventually got his title back.
Interestingly, in nine participations between 1997-2005, he never finished lower than sixth place. In February 2006, he was suspended for two years, ending his career already at the age of 31.
After that, there are three riders with three overall victories: Tony Rominger, Alberto Contador and Primoz Roglic. The Slovenian won the 2019, 2020 and 2021 editions.
The most successful stage winner is Spaniard Delio Rodriguez. Between 1941 and 1947, he won as many as 39 stages in five editions, 12 of them in 1941.
The crowning achievement came in 1945 when he also won the general classification. Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi comes far behind in second place with 20 wins between 2000 and 2010. Rik van Looy and Laurent Jalabert are on 18, Sean Kelly on 16.
Betting on Vuelta 2022
In the 2022 Vuelta, Jumbo-Visma looks set to compete for the overall victory again, just as it did with Jonas Vingegaard in the Tour de France. His teammate Primoz Roglic seems to have recovered in time from his injury after the 2022 Tour. The Slovenian will also be keen on being there, after all, he won the last three editions.
This year he will face competition from the likes of Remco Evenepoel. The only 22-year-old Belgian only rode one grand tour (dropped out in the Giro 2021), but already booked many overall victories in smaller tours. Other contenders include Jai Hindley (winner Giro 2022), Richard Carapaz (winner Giro 2019, second Vuelta 2020, second Giro 2022) and Simon Yates (winner Vuelta 2018).
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The Vuelta a España is an annual professional road cycling race held in Spain. It is one of the Grand Tours of cycling, alongside the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.
What ice skating is to the Dutchies, cycling is to Flanders. Even though the Benelux is a small area, weather conditions and location (Ardennes and nearby Eifel) have a big influence on sports performance and interests. It is said that one-day races were invented in Flanders, so there is a long cycling tradition; Belgians are born with a touring bike, so they say.
The first Vuelta a España took place in 1935, organized by the Spanish newspaper Informaciones to promote its publication.
The red jersey, also known as the “Maillot Rojo,” is worn by the rider with the lowest cumulative time over all stages. It signifies the overall race leader.
The Vuelta a España is usually held in August and September, lasting for approximately three weeks.