The first cycling club in Catalonia, Velocipedic of Barcelona, was founded in 1884 which led to the establishment of the Esport Ciclista Catalan. Nine years later the 400m Bonanova velodrome was built and was regarded as Europe’s finest. There followed the Reus velodrome and then the Lleida velodrome in 1896.
In 1897 the Catalan Cycling Union was set up to govern all cycling activities in the region. 1911 saw the birth of the famous Volta a Catalunya, the third-oldest stage race, after the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, which now occupies the date in the calendar of another Catalan race, La Setmana Catalana de Ciclismo which started in 1963. The other well-known race from the region was the Escalada a Montjuic which commenced in 1965.
La Setmana Catalana de Ciclismo
Following the demise of a number of one-day races in the Catalan region such as the Barcelona–Vilada (1954-58), Campeonato de Barcelona (1918-66) and Gran Premio Catalunya (1947-56), Alberto Assalit, president of the Catalan Federation, decided to group them together and called it the ‘Drink Challenge’, a series of five individual trophies with overall classification being decided on points. The first five days of racing totalled 865km, ran from 13-24 March 1963 and became known as La Setmana Catalana. The first race was won by Jose Perez Frances who dominated on all terrains, having assumed the leader’s jersey on stage four. He also won 1964’s edition of the race.
La Setmana Catalana de Ciclismo used to be regarded as one of the more important Spanish stage races and it’s featured in the palmares of a number of well-known riders such as Luis Ocana, Eddy Merckx, Sean Kelly and Laurent Jalabert. It was last held in 2005 when it was won by Alberto Contador who also won the queen stage, stage three, atop Coll de Pal. The individual time trial was won by Fabian Cancellara [cue hysteria from Kitty – Ed]. Having been classified as a 1.1 race on the UCI Europe Tour in 2005, it was removed from the UCI Europe Tour schedule in 2006.
Here’s Contador winning the queen stage in 2005:
Escalada a Montjuic
This was a one-day, two-stage race held in Barcelona in the middle of October, as one of the final races in the European season. In 2005 it was classified as a 1.2 category race and part of the UCI Europe Tour. The event, organised by Esport Ciclista Barcelona – whose cycling shirt is the same colour as that of the football club – featured a series of races at all levels.
The elite men’s race was split into two stages. The first stage was a criterium consisting of five laps of a 5km. The second stage was a 10km individual time trial up the slopes of Montjuic. Eddy Merckx holds the record for most wins with six between 1966 and 1975. The race has also been won by Raymond Poulidor, Laurent Jalabert, Samu Sanchez and Igor Anton.
Here’s a clip from 2007. the last year the race was held: