Stage 16: Luarca - Ermita de Alba, Quiros, 185 KM Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media
  • jules

    is it really that much of a problem that the Vuelta does not attract the same interest as the Tour or Giro?

    • Winky

      Of course not.

    • Paolo

      I think in a brain washed americanised profit is everything world it is , unfortunately.

    • Michele

      I agree with some of what Lee has written, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Jules … is it really a problem?

      Provided the race is financially viable for the organisers, I don’t think it matters if it’s the poorer cousin to the TdF or the Giro. Call me a traditionalist, but Spain needs a Grand Tour. So many other races have been culled.

      You can’t call it a Grand Tour if they shorten it from 3 to 2 weeks – unless they do likewise for the other 2 Grand Tours.

      • jules

        I agree in that there is merit in Vuelta organisers trying to come up with something unique, instead of relying on 2nd hand strategies like a very difficult parcours. I didn’t watch any of the Vuelta on TV this year – the viewing times seemed to be out of my range – but it’s a race I still pay attention to. It’s still a GT.

        • Michele

          I saw the SBS stages and the concluding kms as shared by CT.

          I had the latest edition of ProCycling mag that also had a stage-by-stage course preview with ‘insider’ comments. I think the route was excellent.

          Venture to say it was ‘easier’ than the Giro and TdF. But this is where it gets tricky …

          If the Alto de L’Angliru was included in the route, the fans would be out in droves. It’s that relationship thing … put insane climbs in and they will come.

          But doesn’t that then defeat the purpose of what race organisers are trying to achieve? I reckon if you were to stick climbs into the race like this, some of the GC riders wouldn’t back up following the TdF.

          So what matters most? A balanced route that attracts GC riders, or an insane parcours that attracts the fans?

          • jules

            OTOH, it might have helped get Purito up for the win! ;)

            • Michele

              Yeah – I really want to see him win one.

    • echidna_sg

      How does one measure interest? roadside spectator count? pure P&L performance? column inches in local or foreign media? I’d say there is always space for a “second class” GT as there are probably only 5 crème de la crème GC riders going around at any one time… given they all want the tour title, it will always be the next echelon of GC riders that gain the opportunity to learn for future TdF attempts at the vuelta and giro. I doubt any team will put their 100% best team forward for any race other than the tour these days…

    • duanegran

      Excellent and provocative question. The Vuelta is my favorite grand tour, but even among its devoted fans it suffers from placement at the end of the season. This is unlikely to change but this year it celebrated its 80th anniversary so it has a firm place in cycling history and should be preserved as such. One thing I believe that could be done to great effect would be periodically for the Vuelta to align with the Spanish speaking western hemisphere to “loan out” the three week to another country every fifth year. I could see some countries like Colombia running a very good Vuelta.

  • Bob

    Title says “it’s time for change at the Vuelta a España” but then doesn’t state any necessary changes…

    Article says “Vuelta is a race that still has many questions to confront” but doesn’t list any questions…

    • “To make this race viable, I believe it should either embrace the two-week format or fall on its sword if it fails to see a significant increase in revenue and viewing figures.”

  • Samaway

    “It has to be said that the Vuelta traditionally sucks.” Quite an opening line for an argument that can be reduced to “the Vuelta sucks because I don’t like it.” If you’re going to appeal to tradition, you might want to write a historically-based article, especially when the recent additions have both attracted most of the “main” GT contenders and taken most of the mountain stages to decide. Just my two cents…

  • TF

    I think there is always some stars lacking from races post Tour, as so many riders now base the season around July. Lee would you be saying it is time for a change if the Giro was on in August…

  • Michele

    Couple of points … [well, one is a question]

    1. Cav’s comments are a little redundant. The fact we could have a TT rider who happens to climb alright [but not brilliantly] leading the race until the penultimate climb on the penultimate stage is testament to that.

    2. What makes a Grand Tour a successful race? Which adage is true:

    a: ‘It’s the riders that make the race’, or

    b: ‘it’s the parcours that makes the race’?

    As far as GC riders are concerned, I would suggest the Vuelta had the strongest field – up until Froome broke his foot and Nibbles got a tow anyway. Sure, there was no Alberto, but the GC startline quality in Spain surpassed the TdF, and was equal to, if not better than the Giro. [BTW – most of the GC riders in Vuelta didn’t crash out in the TdF].

    So, if it’s the riders that make the race, then there was quality on the start line. Granted, some of them were tired.

    If it’s the parcours, then the fact Dumoulin was so close to winning the overall suggests the route was pretty balanced.

    FWIW. My GT ranking for this year [which incidentally, is the same as last year]:

    1. Giro
    2. Vuelta
    3. Tour*

    The gap between Giro and Vuelta is a lot closer than the gap between Vuelta and TdF.

    * Disclaimer: I missed seeing the second half of TdF live. Had to catch up on using highlights packages.

    • Neuron1

      Great points Michele. I think the fact that Froome and Nibali were out early allowed a different group of riders to come to the fore. Instead of Purito ending up in 5th we see him fighting until the final stage to maintain his second place and the points jersey. Dumoulin wasn’t just a lead out rider for Dekenkolb, but a real contender, with a chance to show us how great he can be. Aru didn’t have to fight for team leadership and, despite the detractors, earned his win. Overall a great race. The question is how to continue that in the future: do they seek out the big names or become the “first GT win” for the rising stars? I wouldn’t mind the later. It makes for more wide open racing, not one of two teams riding tempo and controlling the race like in the Tour.

  • John


  • Cam

    I’m inclined to think that three 3 week races is too much, so I think some change would be good. I find myself looking forward to the world championships much more than the Vuelta at this time of year.

  • Luke Cossins

    I don’t usually comment on here but felt I had to after reading the above. I again enjoyed the Vuelta very much this year. As I did last year and the year before that. I love the style of racing that not every year includes the biggest rider(s) in the world. This gives other fantastic riders the chance to get noticed. This is a plus in my book! I think the Vuelta has a place as the smallest of the 3 Grand Tours. It’s also the 1 I enjoyed visiting the most of the 3 grand tours (some of this was due to having excellent access to the riders due to smaller spectator numbers). Leave it alone I say!

  • Daniel

    The Vuelta suffers from much commented upon issue with the World Tour as a whole; it comes at the end of a bloody long season. You start watching the cycling in January with the Tour Down Under, then you get a month off, then you bounce from stage race to classic to stage race to Giro to stage race to Tour. By the end of July, I’m a bit over staying up to 2am. The idea of following a third grand tour closely in the one year is a bit of a stretch.

    Cut the season waaaaay back and maybe the Vuelta would get some more attention.

    • Michele

      Funny though … You can draw some comparisons between tennis and cycling.

      French Open is on at the same time as Giro.

      The biggest slam – Wimbledon is on whilst cycling’s biggest race is held.

      The US Open overlaps the Vuelta.

      And of course, the fourth (first) Grand Slam, Aus Open on whilst World Tour kicks off with TDU.

      Tennis season goes to late Nov with Davis Cup final, and Tennis’ unofficial World Championships.

      I’m not a huge fan of tennis, but I wonder if the average fan gets burnout?

      I do with the longer F1 season.

    • Winky

      I don’t start watching with the TDU. Why would I? Third-rate, insignificant event, much like all the stuff in ‘murka. The ‘strine race should also drop the cringe-worthy name. Next, you’re going to suggest that someone watches the stuff in the middle east.

  • muz

    ‘I can think of several alternatives to the Vuelta that could fill the September slot, like a recharged Tour of California’

    Sorry, but the ToC was the most boring race all year, by miles, so it would need some serious recharging to even come close to an average Vuelta.

    • Winky

      I have agree with that. Those American tours are usually like watching paint dry. So depressing.

    • Michele

      Still reckon this year’s TOC was a lot more interesting – from a racing perspective – than the Tour Down Under.

    • Touriste-Routier

      September is typically the hottest month of the year, at least in SoCal. The race does not currently have the financial resources to support that many WT & PC teams. Several of the US Conti Teams rely on it for their major objective/exposure point, which they would be excluded from if the race increases in stature. And depending upon timing, teams may not want to do that level of travel right before the World Championships.

  • Lyre_bird

    You lost me at “the sherry of fine wines, a cup of tea without milk”. Wrong on all three counts.

  • Winky

    “…..the Vuelta is a race that still has many questions to confront in its quest to fully justify its……lofty status.” This is a nonsensical notion. Doesn’t its status take care of itself?

  • dyalander

    I’ll hopefully remember this year’s Vuelta as the emergence of Chaves and Dumolin (provided they go onto future GC successes – be they top 5’s, podiums, or wins). Wouldn’t replacing the Vuelta with a one week or two week event potentially remove an important development ground for future TDF and/or Grio winners? You may even say Aru’s development took another step – one he would otherwise have had to wait until next year to take – he now races as GT winner, and should race with the belief that brings – maybe, like Valverde he doesn’t convert it to GIro or TDF success, but future GT’s will be more interesting with him there having proven he can ride for three weeks. As other’s have said, if the race is still viable does it matter that it’s not on par with the other GT’s by some interest measure, especially if there’s other value to it?

    • Michele

      Really good points … plus:

      If they go from 3 down to 2 weeks, what ‘fat’ will race organisers trim? Would it be as simple as reducing the mountain stages by 33%, the transition stages by 33% and the sprinters stages by 33%?

      If they decide to weigh the ‘cull’ against the flat / lumpy stages, wouldn’t less sprinters come? Imagine Cav’s reaction to the race if there is only 1 or 2 stages for the sprinters.

      If they reduce the mountain stages would that make the race better [i.e. an allrounder might just win the Vuelta] or worse [all the GC favourites mark each other until what they consider to be the pivotal stage and put all their eggs in the one basket, so to speak].

      The post mortem following every GT invariable looks at the ‘balance’ of the parcours. I think a 2 week race would be harder to get right.

      • JBS

        I tend to think a “2 week” GT is way to go, at least for the Vuelta if not all three GTs as would greatly increase the chance of riders chasing the doubles, even triples. Tinkov may be an arse, but his idea of having the elite tour riders battle it out more often was a good one.

        Currently a “3 week” GT is actually 21 stages over 23 days, with 2 rest days. If it went to two week GTs, they could be 15 stages over 16 days, with 1 rest day (closer to a 25% cut). That means you’d be cutting ~2 sprint stages, 1 TT, a couple of medium mountains and 1 mountain finish. I think the riders would quickly adapt to spend the same overall effort in the shorter time frame. On a smaller scale I think the Tour has shown over the last few years that 110km stage can be just as exciting and definitive as a 200km stage.

        Overall it would give a few extra weeks recovery to reduce fatigue, both for the riders and fans.

        • Michele

          That could work ….

          Now … if we had 3 x 2 week GT could we see a rider to go for and actually win the ‘double’, or, dare I suggest it … attempt to win all 3 in the one season ??? :)

          Of course, the revenue ASO makes out of the TdF, there is no way they would ever think about reducing their $$$ stream by 25%.

          • JBS

            Exactly, to me that must be the most confusing thing about the season for non-cycling fans; that the big guns rarely go up against each other.

            • dyalander

              I hear this point alot, but what’s so confusing about it? The same players don’t play every Premier League, FA Cup, Champs League/Europa league match – players are rested and can’t play in all comps all year round so managers manage their teams. It doesn’t blow everyone’s mind. In the NFL and the Baseball the teams don’t all play one another, it doesn’t seem to bother their many fans that much. Sure the complex wild card and playoff system confuses people but it’s not been a barrier to attracting fans. Tennis players often miss opens due to injury (many accuse Nadal of doing this strategically), it’s not confusing. I think there are far greater barriers to attracting fans than the fact that all the big names don’t go to every race. Cycling, whether it’s a big one day race, a 1 or 2 week stage race or a GT is not like any other major sporting event/code from a viewing/fan perspective. The duration of eventst, the different events within events, the team/individual dynamics, the tradition, and yes, the riders managing their calanders, along with a whole bunch of other things make cycling unique and just reducing the calander won’t bring an influx of fans.

              Cutting or shortneing GT’s to try and get the big names at the same race seems like a bad idea to me – if you think there’s too much racing why wouldn’t you rationalise the other smaller races? Why would you compromise the TDF to save the Tour of California or Down Under or Poland etc etc. and it’s a pretty big if.

              To me the real problem is the revenue model not the racing, and I don’t think the GT’s have to be compromised to address revnue – that’s not to say I know how it can be fixed, especially given the current state of play with UCI/ASO/Velon/etc all pulling in different directions. There’ll always be races some people find more interesting/prestigiuos than others, that’s not a problem to be solved. If the races become un-sustainable, then there’s a problem.


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  • martin

    I used to think of the Vuelta as a bit of a consolation prize for riders that had yet to chalk up a win for the season or for riders that had had a bad tour. Even worse there used to be a lot of riders that would do the first 10 days and drop out as preparation for the worlds.
    I think though that it’s become much more than that and there tends to be a lot more risk taking and daring breakaways that in the Tour simply can’t survive because the pressure is just that much higher. As Jules said I think the biggest issue for the Vuelta is the comparisons with other grand tours. When viewed in it’s own right it’s a splendid race.

  • DuffyMoon

    I don’t disagree with all that you’ve said Lee – I think the two week format may suit the race well, but some comments seemed contradictory.
    You seem to lament the fact the race doesn’t attract the big hitters (although starting the event with both last and this year’s TdF winners is no small change, surely), but then underline that after Froome had to pull out, the race was all the better for it.
    I enjoyed it on the whole. An Astana winner wouldn’t have been the choice of many I’m sure, but some exciting stages, teams like OGE performing really well, (alongside their thoroughly enjoyable BackStage Pass videos) and great to see Dumoulin give it a good go.
    It’s nice to have a big event to folllow in the later stages of the cycling year. You could be right about some level of refresh being of value, but I hope the race continues.

  • Andy B

    My main issue with the Vuelta is that its on too late for me to watch live.. There was some exciting racing this year and lots of young guys in the battle for the GC, Enjoyed watching the highlights
    Having said that I definitely do not follow it near as closely as the tour/giro or most of the season
    I don’t feel the same excitement as the other grand tours bring (that may be caused by my lack of knowledge on the race and the climbs/history)

  • Excellent racing. Several protagonists. Varied tactics employed. Incredible scenery, with such variety, excellently presented by A.S.O.

    Not all GT’s should be the same. The last few years La Vuelta has been arguably the best race of the three GT’s. Partly down to injuries improving the field, partly down exciting and challenging routes. Partly due to A.S.O. making it a little slicker – but not losing it’s Spanish character.

    I am not sure what the writer wants from his racing.

    And, sometimes it is nice to have slightly fewer numbers on the road supporting as it allows the general public a chance to get closer to the good spots to watch and not just the bloody “VIP’s” and the press with their passcards.

    I loved it.

  • David Markham

    Cav was wrong and so is this article. With Quintana, Froome, Niballi, Aru, Purito, Valverde and Sagan all starting, its hardly lacking in “star quality”. It’s been the best of the three GTs for the past 2 years

  • Pete

    I’m sorry but this is without dob’t the most shitest article to ever appear on this website. Wade, are you for real? you may as well include a centerfold section featuring Andrew Bolt. Lets move the volta to cali!

  • Rob Booth

    I cannot disagree more with an article than I do with this one. Over the past 3 or so editions the Vuelta has been anything but predictable with GC only decided well into the 3rd week. Unlike a very boring TDF run to a set formulae by the ultimate winner over the same period. Yes, TDF has more coverage and therefore more viewers but that is driven by attitude of journalists like Lee rather than the quality of racing of entertainment value. This year the TDF was over on stage 10 at Col du Soudet/La Pierre-Saint-Martin, the next 11 stages were a boring procession. The year before the procession started earlier. It’s impossible to say this about the last 3 Vuelta.

  • Dave

    One fantastic concept in the motor racing world is that the prize for winning the European/American/Asian Endurance Championship in any class is a guaranteed spot on the grid for the Le Mans 24 Hours the following season.

    This could be copied in cycling, by downgrading the Vuelta (but upgrading it at the same time, by giving it context which it currently lacks) to become the grand tour for the top 20 ranked pro-conti teams, with entry to the following year’s Giro and Tour up for grabs. A stage race in the USA and the two Canadian GP races could keep the WorldTour riders busy at the same time.

  • ecuadorthree

    I barely recognise reality in the author’s analysis – the Vuelta has been the best Grand Tour for at least the last two years. In my opinion it’s absolutely killing the Giro and relegating it to a sideshow due to the far stronger fields it’s attracting. If anything I’d swap the Vuelta with the Giro in the calendar every second year to give the Giro a chance.

  • Derek Maher

    For exciting racing I place the Vuelta and Giro above the TDF these days thats just my opinion as a viewer.
    Although Eurosport has taken to showing only the last 60Ks in most of the TDF stages to cut out some of the boredom factor on the flat stages.
    Maybe the TDF start date should be moved to the Vuelta spot and the Vuelta moved to mid June.Heresy perhaps !.

  • Peter

    This article has no rationale, no support, and no real direction. A shame, as most of what I read on cyclingtips is fairly spot on.

  • pedr09

    Everyone has the right to their opinion but I couldn’t disagree more. The Vuelta is consistently the highlight GT of the year.

  • Wesley Morgan

    I read this column with incredulity. Off the top of my head, Horner winning on the Angrilu, and Contador staging a coup on Fuente De were a couple of the more exciting bike racing moments of the last 5 years. And even excluding the Fuente De stage, Purito pulled out some stage wins that were pretty exciting that year as well. This year’s Vuelta hardly seems like a freak of a tour, it seems more like the norm.

  • Jacek Kapela

    I’m a European cycling fan and road cyclist as well. I’m sorry for cyclists like Cavendish who can’t find the reason to go to Vuelta but road racing for me is about drama and action. What kind of drama and action sprinters deliver? Before every Grand Tour stage I check the profile and if it’s flat, I put the TV on for the last 3km. If it’s a mountain stage I watch at least last 50 km. If we want to watch great show, we need best teams with strongest riders in the world on epic climbs. Every Grand Tour should have such climbs every year. I want to watch Stelvio, Mortirolo and Zoncolan in Giro, Alpe d’Huez, Galibier and Mont Ventoux in TdF and Angrilu and Andorra in Vuelta. I wish there could be Sierra Nevada climb there too, highest asphalted road in Europe. Then I want to go and do this climbs myself with my cycling buddies. Cycling should be similiar to Grand Slam in tennis. Grand Tours should be highest paid events with some serious rewards for top GC riders and teams. Europe is where is the hearbeat of cycling with great tradition and great races. That’s why US Open will always be inferior to Wimbledon and French Open, same as American and Asian cycling events compared to European ones. Oleg Tinkov is absolutely right in his opinion that something should be done to draw biggest names in cycling to compete against each other in Grand Tours. This is what we, fans, want. And let’s not forget about one day classics like Roubaix, Liege-Baston-Liege or Amstel Gold. I have to say that USA Pro Challenge is a very interesting race. There are some great climbs in Colorado and once it gets top teams to ride there, it could be pleasure to watch.

    As for women’s events, with all due respect, how can they compete against men’s events? Would you rather watch Serena, Vinci and Penetta or Novak, Roger, Andy and Rafa? And Asian and Arab races were waste of time. There is no racing tradition there, no spectators, no drama, nada. They could as well be racing on the moon. Compare that to thousands of fans on Mount Ventoux with campers everywhere. For me Vuelta is great event. This year it was much more interesting than TdF. I would throw out team time trial and put tough mountain ITT instead in first part of the race to push teams to try to get back time lost in that event i next stages. I agree with one thing, It should be considered that maybe Grand Tours should be shorter and last 2 weeks. But this would have to eliminate flat stages and maybe for the better.


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October 22, 2016
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