La Vuelta: Training Race No More

Sep 10 2010

La Vuelta Start LineDid I miss something while I was away getting my legs torn off over Labor Day weekend? Last time I checked, the Vuelta, especially for sprinters and one-day Worlds contenders, was a drop-in, drop-out sort of event. Certainly, the last three years of points champions haven’t fared nearly as well at other high-profile events.

But not only are the big names sticking around this year, they’re also to determined to finish the race, even deigning to focus on performance, rather than writing the Grand Tour off as “training”.

You’ve got to wonder if Cav’s riding—a few paces below his usual standard—plays into his decision to stick it out to Madrid and battle for every sprint along the way. This Vuelta certainly hasn’t done much to dismiss the notion that he’s a bit soft in the opening stages of Grand Tours, and as a dude who can get emotional in slumps, he might just want to get his confidence back before worlds.

Even among the GC contenders, the race is an all-in affair. The only real knock to be laid against it this season is that fewer of the big stage race names are competing; they seem to think that starting a season in February absolves one of any responsibility of racing past July. Because Eddy Merckx never won Het Volk and Worlds in the same season or anything like that.

On the whole, though, I think it’s fantastic to see a full plate of riders intending to go all out though the end of the season’s final Grand Tour. Sticking it out through races will always rate highly at Cyclocosm, and I think both the fans and race organizers would agree that the 2010 Vuelta has been much better for the change in philosophy.

Of course, I can’t help but think the race-the-Vuelta-hard approach got a serious shot in the arm last year, when Cadel Evans turned a near-miss performance at the Vuelta into a rainbow kit. Lord only knows what sorts of training techniques we’ll see next season if Pippo Pozatto finds himself on the top step of the podium in Geelong.

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