Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Heaven is… Tus Vueltas!


It was like Xmas, hustling the Transit across town to John Anderson’s shop – to get my ‘Vuelta presie’, courtesy of Al Hamilton.

The last one was my Vuelta gillet; only used abroad, somehow a Vuelta gillet doesn’t work at Wallyford.

Tus Vueltas
Bless you Al!

Anyway; it was a book, packed with stats on every Vuelta from the first one in 1935 up ’til last year – heaven!

Let’s browse…

The first year I was in a cycling club; Kirkcaldy and District.

Ferdi Bracke of Belgium won over 17 stages and 2,892 kilometres at a very respectable 39.169 kph.

Bracke was super cool; hour record holder, world pro pursuit champion with a perfect flat backed style. There were some huge names behind him – Ocana, Poulidor, Zoetemelk – but remember it was held in late April back then was often used as a ‘tune up’ race by the heads.

I was an Archer-Cutty Sark man; a cool jersey at the time – it made us team mates with the likes of Maurice Burton.

Flanders born and bred, Freddy Maertens lead from start to finish through 2,785 kilometres and 19 stages – winning 13 of them in the process – an all time modern Grand Tour record.To take the shine off that just a little, only seven teams of ten rode; 70 riders – try eight x 22 this year.

I was a Musselburgh man – Dave and Vik will remind me of that on my death bed!

Giovanni Battaglin won the first part of his brilliant – but largely unheralded – Vuelta/Giro double.

Again there were 19 stages and the distance was 3,513 kilometres with 90 starters.

Ah! G.S. Modena days, where did they go?

A notable win – Eric Caritoux of France by a slim six seconds after 3,616 kilometres and 19 stages. Why notable?

Caritoux was clean – even Willy Voet said so!

With 130 starters, the race was growing.

It still hurts – up there with Culloden as bad days go for Auld Scotia.
Robert Millar was heading for certain victory in Salamanca – but with two days to go …

Sorry, I can’t talk about it!

Spain’s Delgado “won” over 3,467 K and 19 etapas, and Robert was second.

It still hurts me; I can’t imagine how Robert feels.

Tus Vueltas
King Kelly in his KAS days.

Kelly – ‘The King’ at last wins a Grand Tour; 21 stages, 3,428 K and 180 starters.  Sean Yates and Malc Elliott are on the “etapa ganadors” list.

I was there!

Swiss chrono man Toni Rominger took the first of three successive Vueltas from 189 starters over 3,558 K and 21 stages.

I blagged my way in to the finish area and was right there to see Abdoujaparov scorch the final sprint.

Ulrich “does a Lazarus” returns from the dead and salvages his season with a format now set at 189 corredores, 21 stages and around 3,500K.

Frank Vandenbroucke won two stages – just about the last we’d see of the Belgian at his very best.

I was there again, on the Gran Via with my tapas and cerveza watching home boy Angel Casero fail to pull off the great time trial he needed to over through fellow Spaniard Roberto Heras – yes, him!

Casero won in the Vuelta in 2001 and that was the last of him. And Vino won a stage – he’ll win one this year too.

Talking of Vino – he won it overall this year, taking three stages – those were the days; no linear testing, no chaperones, fresh pints in the fridges..

A long absence from the race for me; but Davie and I loved the Angliru stage.

“Bert” won there and overall; but it’s his time – and will continue to be until he decides he’s won enough Grand Tours.

What’s that darling? “Not another cycling reference book!?