But this time, I’ll be putting my beard on the line and riding the first 9 stages, just before the pros come through. That’s right, I’ll be keeping Porte, Kwiatkowski, and friends honest as they try to match my time over the course. If you are in town, come down to the side of the road and witness the magic.
So, will my barely-conceived ‘training program’ of sleep-ins and inner-city cycling cut the mostaza when it comes to riding 200km of Spanish mountains each day for 9 days straight? Hell, will I even make it to the rest day?
Find out in Beardy’s Caravan - la Vuelta 2018 edition. Follow along from the sidelines and get ready to #cheerthebeard as I experience (well, one-third of) a grand tour behind bars. Then, watch out for your chance to win money-can’t-buy Spanish stuff in a bigger, better, beardier Bric-à-brac competition. Plus all the photos and stories of my adventures along the way. ¡Venga!
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Beardy’s Pub Trivia - Vuelta a España 2018 edition
Some of the stuff that may or may not make it into the Vuelta a España cycling news...
The youngest of the Grand Tours by 30 odd years (and with a patchier history due to the Spanish Civil War and World War II), la Vuelta, like all younger siblings, can end up getting a little overlooked at times. But I think it’s been sold short - and I can prove it. Here are some of the unique facts which give the Tour of Spain a personality all of its own.
The jersey rainbow
Over the years, the colour of the leader’s jersey has flip-flopped almost as often as the organisers of the race. Starting off orange in 1935 with Juan Pujol behind the bars, it changed to white post-war in 1941, then back to orange again. The jersey then morphed through white with a red stripe, yellow like the Tour de France, one rogue orange throwback year, then gold, before, eventually, settling as the ‘malliot rojo’ (red jersey) in 2010.
Turning wine back into water
The Spanish have a reputation for enjoying a glass of red, but there’s such a thing as taking it too far…
Times were tough as the country recovered from the Spanish Civil War, and international riders were shocked at the conditions. Basque rider Máximo Dermit abandoned the 1945 race, saying: "It's too horrible to imagine. Water! That's an expensive liquid. In some places, like in Totana, if we asked for water they preferred to give us wine. There was no water to waste on the like of us."
All countries like to support their home team, but Spain takes it to the next level during la Vuelta (even changing the rules in the early years to limit the number of international contestants, making sure the Spanish riders came out on top). With three-time winner Contador missing from the 2018 lineup, who will be the new hometown hero of the tour?
An appropriate successor to ‘El Pistolero’ would be ‘La Bala’ (The Bullet), aka Alejandro Valverde. Although fellow Movistar teammate Mikel Landa might also be in the running - if he can find himself a son-of-a-gun nickname in time.
The summit finishes
While the 2018 Tour de France had three summit finishes, la Vuelta has NINE. Particularly brutal will be the 4000m of climbing finishing up Lagos de Covadonga (the ‘Alpe d’Huez’ of La Vuelta) for Stage 15. Honourable mentions also include stage 17’s final pinch on a narrow, corrugated concrete track of 18% gradient, and the double-digit switchbacks up Coll de la Gallina to finish Stage 20. Thankfully, I am not riding any of those stages.
With 8 different winners of La Vuelta over the last 10 years, 2018 could really be anyone’s race. Lining up will be a volatile mix of riders who missed their chance at le Tour and are seeking to even the score, those chasing form for the World Champs, and young guns riding aggressively to get noticed. Who will take the malliot rojo? You’ll have to be following the caravan to find out!
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