Vuelta Travelogue - Anticipation and Trepidation
Vuelta a Espana 2006: Preview and Profile
On a clear day you can see Africa from Malaga and it was from there that the Moors came to rule Spain from 711 until 1492. The Vuelta this year will frequently encounter spectacular evidence of that great period. The Berber-Hispanic Muslims inhabited two-thirds of the peninsula for 375 years, about half of it for another 160 years and finally the kingdom of Granada for the remaining 244 years. The opening and the closing phases of the Vuelta take in much of the kingdom of Granada where Isobel of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon finally conquered the remaining Moors on January 2nd 1492 to end 700 years of Moorish rule.
While tourists may gaze in wonder at Moorish relics they may also be astounded to find that the Iberian Peninsula has also been home to the ancient Romans, Visigoths, Celts and many other civilizations. Each civilization has left its indelible mark behind not only with interesting structures and artifacts, but more importantly cultural traits that form part of the Spanish culture as we know it today. Roman and Moorish influence is most notable in roughly the southern half of the country. In the north the Celtic influence manifests itself very much in Galicia and the Basque country.
Stage 10 of the Vuelta finishes in the very small town of Santillana del Mar near the northern Atlantic coast of Spain. One purpose of the Vuelta visiting here is to promote awareness of the most spectacular example of Palaeolithic Art in the world. The cave at the Museo de Altamira contains 15,000 year old paintings of bison, boar and other animals. Such is the beauty of this prehistoric artwork that the cave is often called the Sistine Chapel of Palaeolithic Art.
From prehistoric times, through Roman and Moorish rule, to the middle ages, and the painful period of the Spanish Civil War, Spain provides a kaleidoscope of historical treasures. By contrast modern Spain does not live in the past. Ultramodern structures like the famous Guggenheim art museums, the unique architecture of Antonio Gaudi and the famous leaning towers in Madrid (Puerta de Europa), seen during the final laps of the Vuelta in Madrid, are witness to the vitality of a modern nation very much playing a leading role in European evolution.
The Vuelta, while making us aware of Spain 's great history also shows us how different the countryside and its weather can be. Arid plains, snow capped mountains, lush green vegetation, Mediterranean tranquility in the south, rain, cold and sometimes fierce storms coming in off of the Atlantic in the north. The race faces just about every type of terrain and weather that Mother Nature has to offer.
This year the Vuelta starts in the south at Malaga and heads due north. After a brush with the Atlantic coast the race then heads back south to the Mediterranean . After a long transfer the peloton will pass through Almeria and Granada on its way back north to Madrid for the grand finale. The race is divided into three distinct blocks. Stages 1 to 9 are followed by a rest/transfer day on September 4th. Now on the Atlantic coast the race continues from Stages 10 to 15 before the second (and last) rest day on September 11th. Stages 16 to 21 take the peloton from the Mediterranean resort of Almeria to the final stage in Madrid on September 17th. A brief stage by stage preview follows:
(Click on the Stage for the profile and google earth image)
Stage 3 - August 28th , Córdoba to Almendralejo, 219 Km
Stage 4 - August 29th , Almendralejo to Cáceres, 135 Km
Stage 5 - August 30th , Plasencia to Estación de Esquí La Covatilla (Béjar), 178 Km
Stage 6 - August 31st , Zamora to León, 177 Km
Stage 7 - September 1st , León to Alto de El Morredero (Ponferrada), 154.2 Km
Stage 8 - September 2nd , Ponferrada to Lugo , 181.6 Km
Stage 9 - September 3rd , A Fonsagrada to Alto de La Cobertoria, 207.4 Km
Stage 10 - September 5th , Avilés to Museo de Altamira (Santillana del Mar), 199.3 Km
Stage 11 - September 6th, Torrelavega (Oscar Freire Velodrome) to Burgos, 165 km
Stage12 - September 7th, Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara, 162 km
Stage 13 - September 8th, Guadalajara - Cuenca, 170 km
Stage 14 - September 9th, Cuenca - Cuenca, 33 km Ind Time Trial
Stage 15 - September 10th, Motilla del Palancar - Ford factory (Almussafes), 175 km
Stage 16 - September 12th, Almería - Astronomical Observatory of Calar Alto, 145 km
Stage 17 - September 13th, Adra - Granada, 167 km
Stage 18 - September 14th, Granada - Sierra de la Pandera, 153 km
Stage 19 - September 15th, Jaén - Ciudad Real, 195 km
Stage 20 - September 16th, Rivas Vaciamadrid - Rivas Vaciamadrid, 28 km Ind Time Trial
Stage 21 - September 17th, Madrid - Madrid, 142.2 km
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