Vuelta honour for Iñigo Cuesta

Vuelta a España organisers Unipublic are set to pay tribute to Iñigo Cuesta’s outstanding record at the event by making him number 1 on their start list. The 41-year-old Cervélo TestTeam rider is in contention for a 17th consecutive appearance in his national tour, and if selected by his team will break his own record of 16 Vuelta starts.

The tribute has been made in the absence of defending champion Alejandro Valverde, who is currently serving a two-year ban for doping offences. Traditionally, a team-mate would wear the number 1 in the absence of the defending champion, but Unipublic are making this unusual move given the unique nature of Cuesta’s achievement.

Cuesta made his first Vuelta appearance for the Euskadi team in his debut 1994 season. He finished 15th overall, marking himself out as a possible contender for the title in future years. Signed by ONCE in 1996, Cuesta instead became a super-domestique working in the mountains for the likes of Laurent Jalabert and Alex Zülle.

Only when he moved to Cofidis in 2001 did he finally improve on that initial 15th place in his national tour, when he finished 13th overall in the 2001 race. That remains his best Vuelta finish.

Last year, his first with Cervélo after moves to Saunier Duval and CSC, Cuesta was a very respectable 35th at the age of 40. That was his 12th finish in 16 Vuelta appearances. He has also ridden the Tour de France seven times and earlier this season completed his third Giro d’Italia.

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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).