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Tour of Spain
Local name:Vuelta Ciclista a España
Region:Spain
Date:September (since 1995)
Type:Stage Race (Great Tour)
History
First Edition:1935
Number of Editions:59
First Winner:Gustaaf Deloor, (Belgium)
Most Wins:Tony Rominger, (Switzerland) and Roberto Heras, (Spain), 3 times

The Vuelta a España bicycle race is one of the three "Grand Tours" of Europe and, after the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, the third most important road cycling stage race in the world.

First held in 1935 and annually since 1955, the Vuelta runs for three weeks in a changing route across Spain. It was inspired by the success of the Tours in France and Italy, and the boost they brought to the circulations of their sponsoring newspapers (L'Auto and La Gazzetta dello Sport respectively); Juán Pujol of the daily Informaciones instigated the race to increase his circulation.

It was formerly held in the spring, but since 1990 the race has been run in September. The course includes two individual time trials. The finish of the Vuelta is traditionally the Spanish capital, Madrid.

The inaugural event (1935) saw 50 entrants face a 3411 km course over only 14 stages, averaging over 240km per stage.

In 1999, for the first time, the course crossed the Alto de El Angliru in Asturias, which climbs 1573 meters over 12.9 km with grades as steep as 23.6 percent (at Cueña les Cabres) making it one of the steepest in Europe. Credit for the discovery of this climb and its addition to the Vuelta goes to Miguel Prieto.

The overall leader wears a Golden Jersey, the Spanish counterpart to the yellow jersey of the Tour de France. Other jerseys honour the best climber (King of the Mountains) and the best sprinter (points competition). Mostly there is another ranking with a jersey like the ranking of the 'Metas Volantes' (intermediate sprints) or a combination ranking.

Swiss cyclist Tony Rominger shares the record for wins with three consecutive first-place victories, which he achieved in 1992, 1993 and 1994. Three Germans have taken first place: Rudi Altig (1962), Rolf Wolfshohl (1965) and Jan Ullrich (1999). The Spaniards, however, have dominated, winning 26 of the 57 runnings of the Vuelta. France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Colombia, and Ireland have also had first place finishers.

The most recent Vuelta (2004) was won by Roberto Heras from Spain, who joined Rominger as a three-time winner. Halfway the Vuelta it appeared it would become an easy win for him, but in the last week his fellow countryman Santiago Perez Fernández won two heavy mountain stages, thus becoming an important rival. Eventually Heras won with only 30 seconds advantage on Perez. Francisco Mancebo, also from Spain became third. The first non-Spaniard was Stefano Garzelli from Italy, he became 11th. The points jersey was won by Erik Zabel from Germany, the mountain jersey was won by Félix Rafael Cardenas from Colombia and the combination jersey was won by Roberto Heras. Kelme was the winner of the team ranking. Alessandro Petacchi, an Italian sprinter won four stages, but he didn't finish the Vuelta. Perez Fernández won three stages.

Winners of the Vuelta a España:

External links

de:Vuelta a España es:Vuelta ciclista a España fr:Tour d'Espagne io:Vuelta a España it:Vuelta a España nl:Ronde van Spanje ja:ブエルタ・ア・エスパーニャ

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