LA VUELTA: INFO WITH THREE DAYS TO GO
October 17 th 2020 - 18:39 [GMT + 2]
· It’s only three days until the 75th edition of La Vuelta takes off. The peloton is gathering around Irún’s FICOBA, the Trade Fair and Exhibition Center of Gipuzkoa, that has been rearranged in order to respect all the health measures established to respond to the current global pandemic.
· La Vuelta 20 was originally scheduled to start from Utrecht, in the Netherlands, but it will finally take off from the Basque Country, a region particularly bound to cycling and to the Spanish grand tour.
· Since its first visit to Bilbao back in 1935, on its very first edition, La Vuelta has had 148 stages which started or finished on Basque soil. Going over the exploits happened in the Basque Country we find marquee names such as Jean Dotto, Emilio Rodríguez, Roger Pingeon, Luis Ocaña or, more recently, Philippe Gilbert and Michael Woods.
THE BASQUE COUNTRY, LAUNCH PAD OF LA VUELTA’S MODERN HISTORY
Next Tuesday, the 75th edition of La Vuelta will start from the Basque Country, where its modern history once started. As many cycling races, the original Vuelta a España was created by a newspaper. In 1935, a journal edited in Madrid, ‘Informaciones’, was the first to organize a cycling race across Spain. After only two editions, the Spanish Civil War interrupted the history of the race, which resumed in 1941 and 1942 to go under hiatus again due to the Second World War. Another newspaper, ‘Ya’, took over the helm from ‘Informaciones’ and organised the race from 1945 to 1950. When the event was seemingly interrupted for good, a still-existent Basque newspaper, ‘El Correo’, picked up the project after their owners paid visit to the Tour de France and fell in love with the idea of bringing the Spanish grand tour back to life. In 1955, the 10th edition of the Vuelta a España took off from Bilbao, a city that had featured in all nine previous editions of the race and where the headquarters of ‘El Correo’ were and are still located. Jean Dotto won that 1955 edition, the first in La Vuelta modern history. ‘El Correo’ kept the race alive for more than two decades, passing the baton to Unipublic in 1978.
IRÚN WELCOMES LA VUELTA FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 51 YEARS
It’s 70 years since La Vuelta first visited Irún. During its 1950 edition, the Spanish grand tour held a stage finish, a rest day and a stage start here. It was Emilio Rodríguez who triumphed those days, winning both the Irún stages after having netted victory also in two previous stages in Asturias and Cantabria. The Galician cyclist won the GC of that Vuelta, with a 15-minute margin on the second rider, his younger bother Manuel. The race came back to Irún six years later for an ITT won by French rider Claude Le Ber. But, if we talk time-trials in Irún, it’s unavoidable to refer the one held in 1969. Luis Ocaña and Roger Pingeon were on a very close contest for the overall victory and the Spaniard beat the Frenchman by 35 seconds on a 25-kilometre route from Irún to San Sebastián. But the gap wasn’t enough for an overturn, and Pingeon ended up winning the race with a 1’56” advantage on Ocaña when the Vuelta finished in Bilbao.
FIVE OFFICIAL STARTS FROM THE BASQUE COUNTRY
The Basque Country has hosted the official start of La Vuelta five times. Bilbao held the beginning of the race four straight years, from 1955 to 1958. Later on, in 1961, San Sebastián hosted quite a particular kick-off, as the first racing day had two half-stages. In the morning there was a 10-kilometre team time trial won by the Faema outfit of Angelino Soler, who that year became the youngest-ever winner of La Vuelta aged 21 years and 168 years old. In the afternoon, a 91-kilometre road race from Irún to Pamplona saw the triumph of Marcel Rohrbach. Irún is becoming this Tuesday the sixth Basque city to host the official start of La Vuelta.
2011-2020: REUNION DECADE FOR LA VUELTA AND THE BASQUE COUNTRY
The long relationship between La Vuelta and the Basque Country went on a 33-year hiatus from 1978 until 2011, when the Spanish grand tour held two stages in Bilbao and Vitoria, the first one ending with an exciting victory for local rider Igor Antón. There have been other iconic moments over this decade, as the beautiful start from San Mamés, football stadium of Bilbao also known as ‘La Catedral’, in 2019. The day before, Philippe Gilbert won in the capital of Bizkaia over a hilly course and ahead of Basque cyclist Álex Aranburu. In 2018, La Vuelta had a summit finish at Monte Oiz, also known as Balcón de Vizcaya, where Michael Woods got an emotional victory he dedicated to his stillborn son Hunter.