The third Grand Tour and the last one of the season, coming in August/September after the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, is the Vuelta a Espana – the Tour of Spain.
First held in 1935 but prevented from running for many of its early years due to the Spanish Civil War the World War Two, the race has been run every year since 1955.
In the same way as the other two Grand Tours the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, the Vuelta was inspired by the editors of a newspaper – Informaciones – to boost circulation.
Its first installment was 3,411km long and lasted for 14 stages around the country, finishing in the capital Madrid where the race has finished on every installment since. The first victor was Belgian Gustaaf Deloor, who also won the races second edition in 1936. The 1936 edition remains the longest in the races history, with his winning time being 150 hours 7 minutes and 54 seconds to cover a massive 4,407km.
Early editions of the race were held in the first part of the year, usually in April, but in 1995 the race moved to the latter part of the year to avoid conflict with the Giro d’Italia which was more popular at the time. The Vuelta is the hottest Grand Tour which makes it incredibly difficult, with even the thinnest road cycling clothes often cited as being too much with riders wishing they could ride in less to stay cool.
Since it’s move to later in the year it has become valuable training ground for the UCI World Championships which are held in October as riders can test their form racing the Grand Tour before they compete in the Worlds, although many of them drop out after a few stages to recover in time.
The leader of the General Classification in the Vuelta has worn many colours of road cycling tops, with the original being orange. It has since been orange on a few occasions, white, white with a red horizontal stripe and yellow. More recently is has been a deep yellow, or Gold, colour and was referred to as the Jersey de Oro, but since 2010 it has been red.
The Vuelta’s Points classification works in the same way as the other Grand Tours with points being awarded on the finishing line and at the intermediate sprints to tempt the sprinters to take part in the race. For a long time the leader of this competition wore a blue jersey that had yellow fish on it in a nod to Spain’s maritime and fishing industry although in recent years this has been changed to a green jersey similar to the Tour de France.
Also similar to the Tour de France jersey, the Mountains classification leader wears a polka dot jersey. This one though features dots that are much larger and are blue on a white background instead of red. The points in the Mountains are awarded according to the height of the summit and classification of the mountain with points being awarded to riders in order of crossing the summit.
The Vuelta is unique for offering a classification for the best rider across all three competitions, called the combination competition. This rider is usually a General Classification rider as they collect mountain points and finish points as a matter of cause whilst trying to win the General Classification. The leader in this competition wears a white jersey, although they are often trying to win one of the other classifications so this is often viewed as a consolation prize.