Barring accidents or a dreadful time trial on Saturday it looks like Alejandro Valverde has stitched up his first Grand Tour (at last!). At the end of all of the big stage races we need to ask some questions and La Vuelta a España throws up some thought-provokers!
Was it a good Vuelta?
Yes, I think so. The start in Holland was a great success, personally I was wrong about the time trial on a closed circuit, it had a big crowd as did all the Dutch roads, and it was the same in Germany and Belgium.
Often correspondents watch La Vuelta on TV and they don’t see any spectators, then report that no one watches it and the Spanish people are not interested and the race is dying on its feet.
They couldn’t be further from the truth; there are large crowds on the mountains, in the villages and towns. The starts are overrun and trying to get near the finish is a battle, but then those correspondents wouldn’t know as they are sat at home watching Eurosport. So yes, the Vuelta was very popular this year.
Was it too hard?
Yes, probably. It’s a long season and many of the riders have been racing since January (on and off).
If you look at the top six riders they hadn’t had full seasons for one reason or the other. As always there were rider who were only there to prepare for the World Champs and where never going to go to the finish in Madrid.
Did La Vuelta miss Alberto Contador?
I thought that maybe it would, if you look at the course it was designed with Bert in mind with all those summit finishes. If Contador had ridden then maybe it would have been a walk-over, he would have won the time trials and could have won all the mountain stages. Better he wasn’t here then?
Will it be a good win for Valverde?
Yes, he dominated and consolidated and didn’t have his usual bad day, it looked like he faltered on the stage to La Pandera, but back he came and took time from his closest rivals. The sign of a good champion?
The best thing about La Vuelta 2009?
Apart from the podium girls this Vuelta threw up some new young names:
Robert Gesink was having a great Vuelta until Friday when it all went wrong for him, possibly because of the bad crash he had the day before.
Andre Greipel (probably) taking the points jersey, we knew he could sprint, but to take the green all the way to Madrid is a feat.
Philip Deignan’s stage and top ten overall is good to see, as is the stage wins of Borut Bozic, Simon Gerrans and Ryder Hesjedal – all men for the future.
Cadel Evans again, he either has bad luck or bad form or a bad team or something, maybe Silence-Lotto is correct in having another option for GC. Tom Boonen? 2nd on the first time trial and what else? Nothing. : As I have said before he should stick with the Classics.
So I think it was a good Vuelta, if it was at the same time as the Giro then it would get the riders when they were fresh, and if it was in the middle of the national summer holidays it would have the same crowds as the Tour.
Roll on next year in Sevilla!