Vuelta a Espana 2016: A to Z (Part 2) – Movistarlets to Zzzz

Here’s the second part of our fond look back on La Vuelta where I go more off-piste and explore, among other things, Magnus Cort’s search for a girlfriend, sirens and (in)famous hotel beds!

M is for Movistarlets

The team of race winner Nairo Quintana should step forward and take a bow: Alejandro Valverde, Jonathan Castroviejo, Imanol Erviti, Ruben Fernandez, Jose Harrada, Dani Moreno, Jose Joaquin Rojas and Rory Sutherland – without their selfless support … nada. Fernandez wore the red leader’s jersey on stage 3, Moreno finished 8th overall, Valverde won the fair play award and Quintana won stage 10, the combined jersey and, of course, the GC. All bar Rojas made it to Madrid – sadly, he broke his leg on stage 20 after crashing into the road barrier as he was trying to get round the commissaire’s car. We wish him a speedy recovery. Even better news was to come after the Vuelta, team sponsor Movistar has renewed for another three years, as has Nairo Quintana. The team is currently sitting pretty atop the UCI WorldTour team rankings.

N is for Newbies

Lilian Calmejane victor on stage 4 © Javier Belver

Lilian Calmejane victor on stage 4 © Javier Belver

It was the debut grand tour for 39 of the Vuelta’s participants, 16 of whom were neo-pros. More astoundingly, the Vuelta produced 13 maiden Grand Tour stage winners. That beats the Giro (10 first time winners) and the Tour (five). But not all the victors were riding in their first grand tour. On average they were riding the fifth of their careers and had an average age of 27 years. Alongside young riders such as stage 4 victor Liliane Calmejane (Direct Energie),  you’ll find IAM Cat Mathias Frank, riding his ninth Grand Tour aged 29 and finally getting a win. Also, 30-year-old Jumbo Bee Robert Gesink, the revelation of the high mountains, whose win on the queen stage was his first in 12 attempts! Older still, Katusha’s 35-year-old Sergey Lagutin finally won a stage in his eighth grand tour – and his after-stage interview was utterly wonderful.

O is for #OBERocks

We love OBE’s Back Stage Passes, which underline the team’s togetherness and sense of fun, because riding a bike is fun! Now we can understand the motivation for Magnus Cort‘s second Vuelta stage victory. Mind you, anything set to music from the Chilli Peppers gets my vote.

P is for President

If I could vote in the US Presidential elections, this guy would get my vote! But, given Spain’s problems in forming a government, maybe there’s a job for him in Spain.

Q is for Quiz

How many times and in which years did Alberto Contador win the Vuelta a Espana?

Ooops! (image: Richard Whatley)

Ooops! (image: Richard Whatley)

Yes, exactly! I pointed out this MASSIVE error on the side of their VIP Hospitality bus to the Vuelta organisers on Day 1 but no one bothered to find a ladder and sharpie to turn the 3 into an 8! How hard could it have been? Was I the only one to notice?

R is for Red jersey

Race winning red from head to foot (almost) © Graham Watson

Race winning red from head to foot (almost) © Graham Watson

The leader’s jersey in the Vuelta hasn’t always been red. It began life in 1935 as an orange jersey, became white in 1941, then back to orange in 1942. It was white with a horizontal red stripe from 1945–1950. In 1955, when the Courier newspaper resurrected the Vuelta, the leader’s jersey was yellow, the same as in the Tour de France. Except for the 1977 Vuelta, when the jersey was once more orange, a yellow jersey was worn until 1998, when the colour was deepened to a more golden hue. Finally, for the 2010 edition, the colour of the leader’s jersey was changed to red.

S is for Samu Sanchez

It was all going so well. The 38-year-old former Olympic champion was looking at his 7th top ten overall finish in this year’s Vuelta, much to the delight of Spanish fans. However, Samu crashed spectacularly in stage 19’s individual time-trial where, for no apparent reason, 7km from the finish, his front wheel slipped from under him. He was catapulted across the road, his TT bike in pieces. His team helped him to swiftly remount and finish the stage but it was clear he was badly injured. The crash features prominently in the Velon cc video of that stage. It was heartbreaking and Samu’s tears at the end brought more than a lump to my throat [it made all of us cry – Ed]. He sustained an acromioclavicular luxation of the shoulder – a separation, rather than dislocation. Again, we wish him a speedy recovery and swift return to one of his favourite races, Il Lombardia.

T is for Treats

A peloton rides on its stomach. Luckily most of the teams have chefs to whip up delicious treats to keep them motivated all the way to Madrid. Here, the chef from Bora-Argon 18 explains how and why she prepares a sushi feast for the riders on one of the Vuelta rest days.

U is for Urdax-Dantxarinea

The finish town for the second Friday’s stage 13 and host for the start of stage 14’s queen stage. It’s full name is Urdax-Urdzabi Dantxarinea and it’s an area populated with caves which, according to Basque mythology, were inhabited by Laminak, beautiful, long-haired sirens with webbed feet (!). Maybe they now keep watch over those surplus Xs.

V is for Va Va Froome

Twice runner-up in the Vuelta a Espana (2011 and 2014), would it be third-time lucky for three-time Tour winner Chris Froome? No, but he put up a helluva fight and won a few more friends on the way. His Sky team shaded the opening team time-trial by nano seconds putting Peter Kennaugh and then, on the following stage,  Michal Kwiatkowski into red. He won stage 11 to Pena Cabarga to move within a tantalising 54 secs of Quintana. But days later, at the Ambush of Formigal, he and his team were caught out and he fell 3:37 down. A magnificent individual time-trial on stage 19 and he recouped 2:16. Refusing to roll over, he made multiple attacks on the penultimate stage but was easily marked by Quintana. Froome finished runner-up after a magnificent battle royale perhaps proving that, in this day and age, it’s not possible to win two consecutive grand tours in a year.

W is for Warbasse

Specifically, Larry Warbasse’s Vuelta diary for Rouleur which documents, among other things,  his struggles for another contract and how breakaways form. It’s well worth a read, as are his other articles for the magazine.

X is for Xabia


Xabia/Javea (image: Wikipedia)

This coastal town in Valencia is probably better know as Javea. It was the start for stage 19’s (possibly) race-defining, individual time-trial. Leading into this stage everyone had speculated on the size of cushion Quintana would need to preserve his lead post this stage. Would it need to be two or three minutes? It was over three minutes and it proved to be a sufficiently ample advantage.

Y is for #YATESyouCAN

Simon Yates (image: Richard Whatley)

Simon Yates (image: Richard Whatley)

Anything my twin brother can do, I can do too. With his bro’ winning a stage in the Tour, finishing fourth overall and claiming the white jersey of best young rider, Simon Yates had a hard act to follow and a point to prove. His OBE team’s main objective was to get Chaves on the podium, nonetheless Simon claimed a maiden grand tour victory on stage 6 and finished sixth overall. I’m not aware he had to wrestle any inflatables but that’s not a bad haul from the other brother from Bury!

Z is for Zzzzzzzzzzzz

When riders aren’t racing, they’re resting. Hotels and their beds are important but one rider’s bed went viral!

Finally, the penny drops. When you’re the only Spanish WorldTour team, there’s something called home advantage. Not sure how many seconds it’s worth!

Just a thought!

Before we leave you, here’s a thought! Let’s us know what you think!

Concluding on a musical theme, here’s one of the many – yes, really! – Colombian songs dedicated to the winner of this year’s race, Nairo Quintana.  Can we expect even more musical gems after his Vuelta victory!


Header image: Fabio Felline , Nairo Quintana (and daughter), Omar Fraile  on the podium of la Vuelta a España 2016 © Javier Belver

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