La Vuelta 2011 Review

Differenty colored cycling jerseys as used in ...
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This year’s Vuelta was a really exciting race and definitely a great introduction to the event for me. Unfortunately I didn’t really get back into cycling in time to catch the Giro D’Italia this year but I was treated to a great Tour de France and a great Vuelta.

The race was one of surprise contenders. Juan Jose Cobo was in the end the deserving winner. He took the red leader’s jersey on the hardest stage of the tour and did an incredible job of shadowing his nearest challengers, especially Chris Froome for the remainder of the event. Bradley Wiggins was thought to be one of the top contenders and in the beginning had Froome working for him, but like other big names like Vincenzo Nibali and Igor Anton he just didn’t have it in him to challenge for the win. He did however put in a fine performance over the three weeks to end with a podium finish in third place. Considering that this was his first race back after breaking his collarbone in the Tour in July, this was a fantastic result for him.

Chris Froome’s ride will undoubtedly go down as the biggest surprise story of the race. No one really expected him to emerge as a grant tour contender in only his first 3 week race. At first, people were impressed with how well he was looking after Wiggins in the early stages, but it was the time trial where he really set out his stall. Everyone expected Bradley to ride into the lead of the race but he ended up tiring and losing a chunk of time in the final part of the stage, and it was Froome who shocked everyone and took the lead.

He only held the lead for one stage but he was the more consistent of the two Sky riders and when Cobo took the red jersey from Wiggins, Froome also passed Brad in the standings for second place.

The best stage of the race had to be the mountain top finish which ended in a duel between Froome and Cobo. Froome put in an almighty attack to try and gain precious time on Cobo but he was pegged back and it looked as if the Spaniard was going to take the stage. On the approach to the final corner though, Froome gave one final push and overtook Cobo once again and held on to win by a second and take the time bonus. It was incredibly exciting and a real advertisement for cycling.

Cobo definitely deserved the win overall, but very few riders can say they held the leader’s jersey, won an epic stage and finished second on the podium in their first grand tour. Chris Froome can and he has a great future. I’m hoping he does stick with team Sky. He’s certainly in a great position for contract negotiations. If he does stay though, it may end up being too packed with GC riders and a sprint train for Mark Cavendish. If that happens, it will be tough to juggle both and may cause the team problems, but I think right now that it’s a risk worth taking if it elevates them to being one of the very best teams in the world. He may be tempted by one of any number of strong offers from rival teams in which he may get positioned as a GC leader which he probably won’t be at team Sky for the next couple of seasons at least.

The tour was so packed of Action that it’s tough to mention everything I enjoyed, but I really liked seeing Dan Martin win his mountain stage in his first grand tour, Tony Martin winning the time trial and Michael Albasini winning a sprint stage for HTC Highroad in their last grand tour as a team. It was also a great sight watching Igor Anton win in spectacular fashion in his and his team’s home Basque region. It helped to make up for an otherwise disappointing tour for him and the team.

I can’t wait for next year’s Vuelta and of course before that, my first Giro as a huge cycling fan.

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