The same but different, the Vuelta and the Tour
If you’ve got a sibling that you have nothing in common with, despite loving them dearly, then you’ll understand the differences between the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana.
They are both owned by the same company (ASO), they are both 21 stages, they are both classified as a Grand Tours and the list of previous winners is pretty similar.
Despite all of these external similarities they are completely different.
At the Tour the spectators are lining the finish line barriers from 8am for a 5:30pm finale. The Vuelta finish line is a ghost town at that hour but by 4pm it’s jam-packed.
At the Tour there are bag checks to enter the media compound and an enormous security team. At the Vuelta I walk straight down the middle of the road, across the finish line and into the commentary tribune (I showed a police officer my accreditation on day one, now it’s just a nod of the head as I walk in).
The Tour has a regular pattern of opportunities for the sprinters in the first week before hitting the mountains, broken up with a few transitional stages and a late time trial.
Stage two at this year’s Vuelta saw Peter Sagan being dropped and Alejandro Valverde out sprinting Michael Kwiatkowski for the win.
Stage four was a genuine mountain top finish, the first of nine, and the breakaway survived. The breakaway virtually never wins in the first week of the Tour.
One of the most exciting elements of the Vuelta is it’s unveiling a new stars.
This year’s race sees two young Western Australia’s, Michael Storer (21) and Jai Hindley (22), riding their first grand tour. They are both talented and will have a big job on their hands supporting Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) who is a genuine podium contender.
At Mitchelton-SCOTT, Simon Yates is chasing his dream in the three weeks races as the team continues its evolution as a grand tour squad. Yates is a real threat to win.
There is no question that the Tour is more important and more rewarding but the Vuelta is more fun or to continue the family analogy, the Tour is Prince William and the Vuelta is Prince Harry.