“Age and treachery
will overcome youth and skill.”
Fausto Coppi, Italian
"Champion of Champions"

  September 2005


Vuelta a Espana 05 (Click to enlarge)




Andorra's Welcoming Committee in 1939 (Click to enlarge)

String winds create Bordures accross the road (Click to enlarge)


Vuelta Travelogue - Quintessential Spain

La Vuelta a Espana: A Grand Tour [Part 4]

Into the mountains

A short transfer from Lloret takes the race to the stage start in Girona (a famous base for many elite American riders) in the foothills of the Pyrenees for two days of very serious classic Spanish climbing. On Stage 10 one Cat 2 and two Cat 1 climbs lead the peloton into the wild and rugged terrain up the Categoría Especial (above category) climb to the legendary principality of Andorra at 2220 meters (7,283 feet).

Andorra is an independent principality that proclaims itself to be Europe's number one tax haven. Tucked high up in the Pyrenees, it has long been on the road between Spain and France, with often questionable activities being orchestrated out of the area. Its current tax status has its roots back in the Spanish Civil War days, when food, equipment and ammunition were smuggled from France through Andorra. This flow reversed itself during World War II when materials were smuggled from Spain into Nazi-occupied France for the resistance.

For cycle racing fans, Andorra is the site of one of the most famous legends in the sport. In 1964 the Tour de France stayed in Andorra for one of its rest days. While everyone else rested and went for the customary ‘training ride,' Jacques Anquetil attended a barbeque held in his honor. A great lover of the good life, Jacques ate too much good food, washed it down with liberal quantities of alcohol and smoked to relieve the tensions of the race. The next day, soon after the start, the race encountered the fearful Port d'Envalira. Anquetil was soon in trouble and the rest of the field reacted. His principal rivals attacked en masse. At the top, Anquetil was more than four minutes back and on the verge of abandoning. His team manager and teammates would have none of it. Under great duress, he plummeted like a madman from the top of the Envalira and eventually reconnected with the leaders. This saved his race and, after the famous duel with Raymond Poulidor up the Puy de Dome several stages later, he rode into Paris to become the first five-time Tour de France winner.

For the riders of the 2005 Vuelta, there will be no rest day in Andorra as Stage 11 leaves this modern Mecca of skiing to ride 186.6 km through the Pyrenees to the ski station at Aramon Cerler. For many, Cerler will bring back sad memories of the great climber José María Jiménez who was a winner here in 1998.

Pilgrims Road

A long transfer takes the race to Logrono, where Stage 12 will trace the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, an ancient pilgrim route heading east to west to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. Santiago was the son of Zebedee and Salome. Santiago El Mayor was the brother of John the Apostle and one of the Jesus's 12 disciples. At the time of Apostle Santiago's death, tumultuous events required that his be spirited far away. Eventually his remains were returned and when re-discovered in the 9th century, Bishop Teodomiro ordered a church (now known as the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela) to be built on the site of the discovery. This event signaled a ‘spiritual reorganization' across Europe and with it began many centuries of pilgrimage for people from all over Europe to this holy site. The undulating road to the stage finish at Burgos crosses another region well known for its strong winds and there will be big battles to make it into the leading bordure.


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