The Vuelta a Espana took nearly thirty years longer to get off the ground than the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia. The early years of the race were wrecked by the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The organisers of the Vuelta did not help its cause in the long term by discouraging foreign participation. By Les Woodland.
My mother-in-law wasn't impressed by the Vuelta. And nor was I, to be honest. We'd planned to drive up the col de Tourmalet and take the cable car from La Mongie to the observatory at the top of the Pic du Midi. Just before the mountains, though, a policeman stopped us and told us we had to wait because a bike race was coming through.
We asked which race and the policeman told us, as though it was as much a nuisance to him as it was to us, that it was the Tour of Spain. So we had lunch and awaited the spectacle.
It never came. Junior races have caused more commotion. There was a rush of cars driving importantly through the village, then a gap of several minutes and finally a great gaggle of riders who seemed in no great hurry to get anywhere. Moments later things were as quiet as they had been before. The dozen or so people on the street turned and went off, maybe as unimpressed as we were, and the Vuelta rode on towards the Tourmalet.
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