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Vuelta celebrates 75th birthday today

The 2010 Vuelta a España route map

The 2010 Vuelta a España route map (Image credit: Unipublic)

It is 75 years to the day since the first edition of the Vuelta a España started in Madrid. At eight in the morning on April 29, 1935, a peloton of 50 riders set out from the centre of the Spanish capital on a 185km stage that was won by Belgium's Antoine Digneff.

There were reported to be as many as 20,000 fans waiting to greet the riders on the Puerto del León climb that first day of the Tour of Spain. The race's popularity continued throughout the 14 stages, with up to 100,000 people estimated to have turned out to welcome the 29 riders who finished on May 15. Victory in that first edition went to another of the Belgian riders, Gustave Deloor, as the main Spanish hopefuls, including the three Trueba brothers, were beset by bad luck.

The event came about when Spanish aristocrat and former athlete Clemente López Dóriga persuaded Juan Pujol, director of the daily paper Informaciones, to back the race.

Spanish king Juan Carlos is marking the anniversary by hosting a reception in Madrid's Zarzuela palace. As well as Vuelta director-general Javier Guillén, a host of Spain's Vuelta greats will be attending including Federico Bahamontes, Julio Jiménez, Pedro Delgado, Melchor Mauri and Abraham Olano, who now oversees route planning for the race.

"It provides us with particular satisfaction that the king is receiving us on the same day that the first stage started," said Guillén.

Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).