The Tour of Spain for 2010 began a bit on the unusual side. First, it started as a night race, which is extremely rare. Second, the bike tour of Spain began with a fifteen-minute, team-time-trial or “ttt” which in pro cycling terms is considered a very short race.
Compared to the Tour of France and Tour of Italy, these two peculiarities were enough to make the Tour of Spain, stand out from the rest. In general however the grand tours are called such for three main reasons:
- The total miles covered
- The 21 stages taking three weeks to complete
- The country of origin.
The Tour of France, is perhaps the best known of the three, however equally as challenging are the tours hosted by Spain and Italy.
Spain is unique in that it is the third and final tour of the year. After completing two prior grand tours lasting roughly 2,000 miles, it is hard to imagine that the bikers have enough energy to complete a third tour and then compete in the World Finals shortly after the Tour of Spain has concluded. Such is the life of the professional road cyclist who seems to find endless amounts of energy to successfully complete each racing season.
A Stage Win or Bust
Not every cyclist has what it takes to emerge victorious at the end of the three week long race. The team directors and team members know the chance of winning is slim to none. A part of the race that is more attainable is pulling off a stage win. With 21 stages, come 21 opportunities to become an elite cyclists with a stage win to his name.
Also high on the list of accomplishments is to win a stage as a native of the country hosting the tour. Spain’s own David Lopez won stage nine of the 2010 Tour of Spain. The ninth Vuelta win was accomplished by sprinting to the end after climbing numerous mountains throughout the five hour ordeal.
Spaniard, Alberto Contador is one of the serious contenders to be atop the podium when the tour concludes in September.
The tour, covering over 3,300 kilometers (2,000 plus miles) with its especially mountainous terrain tests even the best of the best. As is the case with each tour, the number of finishers never matches the number of initial starters.
It takes nerves of steel to handle the pressure of racing 21 stages with only two days of scheduled rest in between. The weather can be either too hot or too cold. The Tour of Spain for 2010 recorded the highest consecutive number of excessively hot days every faced by cyclists, in recent history. Temperatures reaching well over 100 degrees were the norm the first week of the tour. The excessive heat brought about a change to an evening start of the opening race of the tour to offer a little relief for what would come the following 20 stages.
Accidents and crashes can occur quickly without warning or time to prepare. Broken, scraped and bruised bodies fill the peloton of racers by the end of the tour.
Still nothing beats the excitement of watching a train of professional cyclists on the move. Easily surpassing speeds of 50 miles per hour, sprinters take advantage of the few opportunities to win a stage by timing their final take off at just the right distance from the finish line. At times the race takes on a beauty of its own. Poetry in motion is a cliche that aptly describes the unison of the group on the move.
Many biking enthusiasts decide to book a bike tour of Spain just to experience the race in person. Countless others travel to Spain expressly for the Tour of Spain. The few quick seconds they witness the symmetry of the bikers, makes the trip totally worthwhile.