Velominati Super Prestige: 2011 La Vuelta a España

Photo: REUTERS / Miguel Vidal

Spain is an awesome country. It has amazing scenery, culture, cities and chicas… oh, the chicas. Its football competition features the world’s best players, their national team are the reigning World Cup holders, and they boast world champions in tennis, Moto GP, Superbikes and Formula 1. They regularly kick the collective asses of France and Italy, and a lot of other European countries when it comes to bicycle racing, although most of their recent heroes have somewhat of a cloud hanging over them. So why does their Grand Tour hardly raise an eyebrow when compared to the other two big tours, and why the fuck do they still allow cowards on horses armed with poison darts to taunt and kill a beast as noble as el toro for ‘entertainment’?

I can’t really answer the last one, but the fact that La Vuelta is treated like the road racing equivalent of a red-headed stepchild is about as fair as the Corrida itself. To me, and to many pros, it is seen as a tour of redemption. Those who, for one reason or another, either due to bad luck, bad management or bad form suffered a less-than-stellar Tour de France, now get a chance to make something of their season and add a ‘major’ to their palmares. Riders like Jan Ullrich, who in 1999 took the amarillo jersey after sitting out Le Tour with a dicky knee. 2008 saw Contador make amends after his Astana team was prevented from starting le Grande Boucle under a doping cloud. In fact, La Vuelta and doping have more than a passing aquaintance, with Valverde winning while under a pending hearing in 2009, and of course little Robbie Heras getting stripped of his 05 title after an EPO positive. Last year wasn’t without its own scandal, with a positive for 2nd place ‘sensation’ Ezequiel Mosquera dragging La Vuelta’s name through the red dust again. It could well be the dirtiest tour of them all, a race that itself seeks atonement as much as those who race it.

This year’s edition has the same sense of redemption written all over it, with some of Le Tour’s unfortunates having a crack at it. There’s Wiggo, who was in the self-proclaimed form of his life before snapping his twig-like collarbone early on. Can he show us what he had promised on the roads of France in the Dauphine, or will the Spanish heat and steep, long climbs be too much for him? How about Jurgen Van den Broeck, also looking great before his own clavicle calamity ended his July. Invisible Denis will also be there, his Geox team considered not good enough for the Tour, out to show that he’s still a force and add to his two Spanish victories. Other battered old warhorses who will never give up easily are Andreas Klöden and Carlos Sastre, but father time may have finally taken its toll on this duo.

In reality, it’ll probably come down to the younger brigade made up of last year’s winner Vinnie Nibali, J-Rod, Scarponi, and Anton. It could be a blow-out, or one of the best races of the year. We may even get another drug controversy to keep up the status quo of years gone by. Whatever happens is anybody’s guess, which is why this race is one of the hardest to pick for VSP contenders, and one that might even be as exciting, vibrant and colourful as the country it traverses for three hot weeks.

So pour yourself a glass of Sangria, give the start list a long or glancing look, and post your picks before 5am Pacific time (yeah, I don’t know when the hell that is either…) and if you have any doubts, confusion or questions, head to the VSP page for clarification, rules and/or rebuttals. No horsing around, no bullshit.

Buena suerte!

 

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635 Replies to “Velominati Super Prestige: 2011 La Vuelta a España”

  1. @frank
    Maybe everyone or at least certain key individuals need to have a worlds-jersey inspired icon next to their name denoting nationality so as I can keep track of the Trans-Tasman Sea/Inter-commonwealth flame wars.

  2. @Marcus

    @scaler911

    The underarm incident is one of the many reasons why we hate each other.

    K. Someone bowled underhand not overhand (even though that wiki entry was in english, I’m still confused), which was legal, and a tea cup got smashed (Mark Burgess?), and two entire countries hate each other? It’s kinda easier being American: we love everyone, and they all hate us.

  3. @scaler911
    It is more a big brother/little brother thing. NZ: second child syndrome. Our entire population is 4 million, about the size of one of Australia’s 2 main cities. we like to think we’re a big player in the region, but with 22 million people, the fact that they can sell dirt to China for bazillions of dollars, and that they’ve got a lot of dirt, means we’re kidding ourselves. With sports, we compete at the same things (isoteric nonsense no – one else cares about) apart from sports Aussies make up and only play themselves. There is a common sense of humour based around the fact Australians are all theiving convicts, and their most succesful land animal, the kangaroo, is the one that can outrun a drunk randy outback rancher.

    This isn’t helping. Australia is often referred to as the USA of the south pacific.

  4. @scaler911
    You will see from Minion’s detailed knowledge of our vast beautiful country that Kiwis think a lot about Australia. Australians on the other hand, only think about New Zealand when we realise there are a bunch of them over here sucking up social security. Or when we are beating them at sport.

    And a sheep’s running speed (or lack thereof) is precisely why they are New Zealand’s most favorite animal.

  5. Now I’m really offended – I’m not really a Brit you know Frank. Marcus and Oli are forgiven by comparison.

    I live there (well I live in Abu Dhabi actually but my family lives in London) and now have dual nationality but I would always fail the cricket test.

    That probably means nothing to you, but an odious politician in the 80s called Norman Tebbit (think of him as Johan Bruyneel to Margaret Thatcher’s Lance Armstrong) was riffing about the fact that Indians and West Indians etc come to Britain but don’t truly become British. His definition of this was that when England played said countries at cricket, which team would they support ? If it was the home country then they fail the cricket test, which is how it is now popularly referred to.

    The flaws in this were:
    1. Britain doesn’t play cricket, England does.
    2. Supporting the English cricket team is like supporting the NY Mets instead of the Yankees. On balance you are doomed to a lifetime of pain with the occasional ray of glorious sunlight only serving to make the shadows darker and colder.

    At any rate, having gone through the stage that all Australians in the UK do (and Scots never leave) of supporting everyone BUT England/Britain, I have now reached the point where I am quite happy if they win (e.g. Wiggins) but not when they are up against Aussies (e.g in a mini-pump death match between Anna Meares and Victoria Pendleton).

    Hence, to return to the original subject, I am not criticising as a Brit having a pop at an Aussie team/rider/manager to wind them up, but as someone who feels a genuine sense of being represented by those teams and people and therefore, I feel, someone with a right to hold a view – even if I should be less prickly about it.

  6. @ChrisO
    Now it all makes sense. You are very confused man. You sound like a mate of mine when he used to talk about chicks. And then he came out.

    Just like the Piti Principly, pick a country, one country and stick to it.

  7. Fuck, this is fun.
    It’ just like watching the Palestinian / Israeli conflict if the only weapon allowed was wiffle cushions.

  8. @all
    This better than reading the paper with my coffee!

    @Dr C

    @Chris
    Rule #33 – sadly I fear, much as we still only sport grey urchins rather than black, the ultimate commitment, comparable to that of a Kamikaze pilot in the Pacific, the shaving of the guns, is just a little beyond us yet – that said, I may pack the Phillips Ladyshave for the trip to the Pyrenees next year, for a sort of Grasshopper moment at the top the Tourmalet (secretly hoping I won’t find a power socket up there….)

    Power socket? Rule #5 for fucks sake! Cold water and a straight razor!

    I did suggest to Mrs Chris the other day that I should shave the guns, she was not massively impressed with the idea and suggested it may not go down too well in terms of the team dynamic as it were. She was also rather dismissive about the advantages of smooth guns, pointing out that there wouldn’t be any sort of massage malarkey going on.

    @frank

    @Pedale.Forchetta

    Back to the Vuelta, to be honest I’ve seen so far no more than 5 minutes of footage…
    Definitely not my stage race.

    I’m with you, mate – I just can’t seem to get myself excited about this race. I watch it when I can, but it’s just not anything compared to the Giro or Tour.

    From the bits I’ve seen, I’m getting into it. There was a moment of panic when Mrs Chris said it was a shame she couldn’t catch up on eastenders because she’d switched the Sky+ box of before holiday. Fortunately, the kids had switched it back on.

    @ChrisO
    Cricket test point 1, a minor correction would be that only the English are any good at it. It’s surprisingly popular in at a more grass roots level in the rest of the UK. The England cricket team is really England and Wales. There’s more cricket played in Scotland than rugby and the main touring side each summer will usually play a one day match against Scotland (who used to play in the Minor Counties competition, league two as it were of the club competition)
    Cricket test point 2, recent disastrous Indian and Australian results and a lack of any future plans after the retirement of their greats are pointing at the occasional ray of English sunlight lasting somewhat longer.

    @ChrisO

    …(e.g in a mini-pump death match between Anna Meares and Victoria Pendleton).

    now that would be a sport…

  9. @ChrisO

    having gone through the stage that all Australians in the UK do … of supporting everyone BUT England/Britain, I have now reached the point where I am quite happy if they win (e.g. Wiggins) but not when they are up against Aussies (e.g in a mini-pump death match between Anna Meares and Victoria Pendleton).

    After 12 years here I am not sure I’ve reached this point. I’ve stopped actually hoping they lose all sports they participate in, but only because I’ve realised the number of sports I am actually interested in is actually 3. One of them is cycling, where there are other nationalities to worry about. And the other two … well, suffice to say we aren’t the force we used to be.

    When I am imagining a match between Victoria Pendleton and Anna Meares, Victoria Pendleton always wins. Mind you, my imagining’s involve pump shaped objects rather than pumps.

  10. I’ve lived the last 44 years in New Zealand but – if a Kiwi side isn’t involved – I still sometimes support Mother England, my country of birth.

    I say “sometimes” because (God help me) I’d rather see the Convicts win than the Poms, although oddly it’s the opposite in the cricket.

  11. @Nof Landrien

    It’s having kids that pushed me past the Anyone But England tipping point.

    Partly because through that you get involved with national federations e.g. they go to a kids cycling club which is part of British Cycling, and inevitably the kids get BC jerseys and start to support British cyclists.

    The other part is that although it is unlikely they will ever pull on a national uniform, it isn’t impossible (in the case of our eldest, who could be a national-level swimmer or triathlete/pentathlete if he could keep his head screwed on, which isn’t going to happen). So while I would love him to compete for Australia it would just be wrong to have grown up in the UK and had all the training and development and then switch.

    It isn’t fair on the kids to make out that ‘their’ team is at the bottom of the pile.

    Just second-best and make sure they don’t forget it :-)

  12. @ChrisO
    Chris,

    Didn’t Tebbit (truly a Prince of Darkness in the Dick Cheney mold) suggest that anyone who didn’t have a job “should get on their bike” to look for one? Alas, I don’t think he was suggesting la vie velominatus . . .

  13. What an attack by Froome! Looks Like Cobo is pulling him back though – too bad.

  14. What an awesome finish. Froome and Cobo slugging it out. Incredible comeback to take the win.

  15. Fantastic second effort to take it. That’s some racing right there!

  16. Amazing show by Froome and Cobo. Can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Froome, he seems to be a pretty complete rider.

  17. Damn! That was some kick-ass racing today. Froome was laying down some serious V. So nice to see a rider really taking up the challenge instead of waiting for the other guy to crack or following someone else. On a sartorial level the right man won too. Froome looks totally PRO in his black Sky kit and red and white Sidis. Cobo looks like someone at Nascar dressed him.

  18. @Marcus

    @scaler911
    Being ANZACs is why Australians and New Zealanders love each other.
    The underarm incident is one of the many reasons why we hate each other.
    And to be clear, Russell Crowe is a New Zealander.

    That’s why they need sheep ’cause all their c*nts end up in Australia.

  19. @LA Dave

    Amazing show by Froome and Cobo. Can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Froome, he seems to be a pretty complete rider.

    I agree, and I also have an idea of what the future holds for Cobo: Can anyone say WADA? Got to love that Spanish Cycling Federation program. :)

  20. @frank

    @Pedale.Forchetta

    Back to the Vuelta, to be honest I’ve seen so far no more than 5 minutes of footage…Definitely not my stage race.

    I’m with you, mate – I just can’t seem to get myself excited about this race. I watch it when I can, but it’s just not anything compared to the Giro or Tour.

    That said, this Vuelta has been something to follow. I might even buy the WCP dvd so I can actually watch a bunch of it.

  21. @Nate

    @LA Dave Yeah, I’m not sure what that was all about. I have a high overall position to concern myself with. I’m hardly in a position to indulge principaled arguments.

    Chapeau! Well said! :)

  22. @Wiscot Yes that was also Tebbitt, the man used to model Skeletor until someone decided it was too scary. Sadly I see some sense in that particular pronouncement, but then I have also been known to defend Donald Rumsfeld on occasion.

    @Chris
    More cricket played in Scotland than Rugby ? That explains the Six Nations then.

    I know that technically it is the England and Wales cricket board, but it is usually referred to as the ECB innit, conveniently dropping the Welsh. And the scoreboard will say England, not England and Wales.

    Enjoy it while it lasts is my advice. I know they are Number 1 test team but the competition isn’t exactly fierce at the moment is it ? It’s the equivalent of Carlos Sastre’s Tour victory – keep plugging away at being not bad and if you’re lucky all the flash buggers will implode/retire/be injured at the same time.

    Having said that, I was pleased to see them thump India, and Cook is truly a world-class player (and Bell, on his day) The Aussies are rebuilding though.

  23. Slight shakeup on the VSP, with Nate taking the most commanding lead we’ve seen so far.
    [vsp_results id=”9276″]
    [/vsp_results]

  24. @wiscot

    Cobo looks like someone at Nascar dressed him.

    What is up with that helmet positioning? He looks like a zucchini with a gland problem.

  25. @Nof Landrien

    Know what you mean but Froome is 26 and on an upward trajectory from teams like Barloworld.

    Cobo is 30 and has never shown that form. He has history with Saunier-Duval (he was awarded the Pau-Hautacam stage after his team-mate Piepoli was busted – same tour and team that Ricco was busted on). And the Geox team is managed by Mauro Gianetti, who was in charge of Saunier-Duval at the time.

    Lord knows I could have my faith blown out of the water. In some ways I hope he is doping because it would be even worse to lose a Grand Tour by a handful of seconds because of some doping cheater if you were riding clean. I suspect Cadel Evans could commiserate.

  26. @frank
    So it’s just not me that’s noticed the weird tilted-towards-the-back positioning of Cobo’s helmet? Is that how it’s supposed to sit or is he pushing it backwards? Also, anyone else noticed the lovely positioning of images on the home page? To the right we have Frank laying down some serious V. To the left, apparently behind him, the wee lassie in Paris seems to be cruising along on her velib and keeping up with the big man. Faster Frank, faster. You know you can drop her!

  27. @Nate @LA Dave

    @LA Dave Yeah, I’m not sure what that was all about. I have a high overall position to concern myself with. I’m hardly in a position to indulge principaled arguments.

    Mmmm, looks like no shit was flung after all, indeed, nobody got too excited at all about your subbing in of Cobo at all, so I’d best back down from my horse of high and mighty principle and tip my hat to your stupendous VSP lead – somehow I seem to have dropped to zero points again, despite having Wigoo at No 1 – je despair – born loser

    :o(

  28. @Chris
    why don’t you try shaving your arse first, then slowly work your way down your left leg to the foot over a few days – then if you don’t dig the look and feel of it, you can always avert your eyes and look at the right leg til it all grows back?

    @Nate

    @frank Maybe everyone or at least certain key individuals need to have a worlds-jersey inspired icon next to their name denoting nationality so as I can keep track of the Trans-Tasman Sea/Inter-commonwealth flame wars.

    Good idea, I lose track of who hates who – we’ve even kissed and made up with the English over here (esp after we whooped their ass at cricket last year)

  29. @Nate

    @frank , @Buck Rogers , @Dr C Thank goodness the plan seems to be working “” nothing worse than compromising principles and not getting the result!

    Hey, I’m currently on a meteorific rise in the standings. Finally managed to nail a point in the Vuelta VSP!!!

  30. @Buck Rogers
    Would it help if I published some sort of falsified Drug Testing Medical certificate in the interim? As Nate says, why let good ethics stand in the way of a resounding victory

  31. @Dr C

    @Chris
    why don’t you try shaving your arse first, then slowly work your way down your left leg to the foot over a few days – then if you don’t dig the look and feel of it, you can always avert your eyes and look at the right leg til it all grows back?

    Haha, you must be a proper Doctor with such sage advice!

    Mrs Chris has on occasion complained about eyebrow and back hair, maybe I should do a deal whereby she can organise whatever gentleman grooming she see fit and I can shave the guns!

  32. @Chris

    @Dr C

    @Chris
    Mrs Chris has on occasion complained about eyebrow and back hair, maybe I should do a deal whereby she can organise whatever gentleman grooming she see fit and I can shave the guns!

    never a good look on a woman mate – even USA’s finest comes unstuck

  33. @Dr C
    Steady on old chap, you’ll get me in a world of shit with talk like that! Mrs Chris most definitely doesn’t have any undesirable hair. It’s my eyebrows and back that are in need of attention.

    As for the second photo, it’s all or nothing!

  34. @Chris

    @frank
    there are a couple of GPs coming up in Canada and the the Paris Brussels. Are these VSP events?

    Yes, sir!

    @Chris, @Dr C
    *sigh* You guys sure know how to make me regret allowing photo uploads/embedding.

  35. @frank

    @Chris, @Dr C
    *sigh* You guys sure know how to make me regret allowing photo uploads/embedding.

    Wasn’t me, sir, it was ‘im, sir, wot called my wife hairy!

  36. @Dr C
    Wow, that’s the red carpet equivalent of a critical mass ride. Bet she wears long socks too.

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