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BikeRaceInfo Presents a Narrative History of the Vuelta a España

Unipublic, the organizers of the Vuelta, have generously given me permission to post their history of the Vuelta. The text is Copyright Unipublic. It will take me a while to get it all done. For now, here is the Vuelta up to 1955.

1935, 1st Edition Madrid - Madrid, April 29th - May 15th

Complete 1935 Vuelta a España final results

14 Stages, 3,425 kilometers

50 Riders started, 21 retirees.

Average speed , 28.537 Kms/hour.

The history of Vuelta a España is closely related to the media. If nowadays it would be imposible to develop such an enourmous event without the help of the different media, which report even the smallest detail, the first edition of Vuelta a España, held in 1935, could be carried out thanks to Diario Informaciones, organizer of the event.

The conditions which the 50 riders had to go through turned this first edition into a real odyssey; at the end, the race was won by the Belgian rider Gustave Deloor, after a fierce fight against the Spanish rider Mariano Cañardo, who suffered all kind of misfortunes which prevented him from achieving the first position in the Individual Overall Standings.

The riders had to cover 3,411 kilometers, divided in 14 stages, 10 of which were more than 250 kilometers long, something which would be almost unthinkable for the present professionals. Besides, they had to use heavy bicycles made of iron which underwent constant punctures and damages which had to be repaired by the riders themselves and sometimes they were forced to finish the stages using bicycles that the spectators lent them.

Given the slight importance that riders and managers dedicated to training at that time, the riders decided that the best way to face the race was to drink a cocktail made by Perico Chicote. Orange Bitters, Grand Marnier, Cordón rojo, Curaçao naranja, English gin and half a glass of Italian vermouth were the ingredients of the magic formula which allowed them to face a race described by some of the riders as the hardest one they had ever known till that moment.

The 29th of April the fascinating history of Vuelta a España began; that year the quality of the race was reduced because of the coincidence with Il Giro de Italia. As early as in the first stages several riders such as Escuriert, Ezquerra, Montero and Trueba were forced to abandon, turning Deloor and Cañardo into the two only candidates for the final tiumph. The Belgian rider showed a more regular performance and was able to achieve the deserved victory as the 14-minute lead he had over Cañardo proved.

Only four Spanish riders were able to achieve a partial victory: Escuriet, first Spanish leader in the history of Vuelta a España, Cañardo, Cardona and Montes. Nevertheless, the most important thing was already done. A brilliant event had been set into motion that year, reaching such an unthinkable magnitude nowadays that those people who organized and took part in this first edition of Vuelta a España could not have imagined.

1941: 3rd Edition. Madrid - Madrid, June 12th - July 6th

Stages: 22, Kms: 4,406 Riders: 32, Retired: 16

Average Speed: 26.108 Kms/hour

The first Vuelta a España after the Spanish Civil War had a clear Spanish protagonism. The Second World War caused a considerable reduction in the presence of foreign riders and just four Swiss riders started the race. This edition will remain in our minds not only thanks to the triumph achieved by a Spanish rider but also thanks to the twelve stages won by Delio Rodriguez one of the best sprinters in the history of Spanish cycling. Nevertheless, that sensational number of achievements were not enough to guarantee him a place among the first five classified riders in the Individual overall Standings.

Berrendero and Fermín Trueba delighted the enthusiasts with an spectacular duel, which kept their interest until the last day of the race and which ended with the victory of the former, who rounded off the race in a 53-kilometer long time trial between Gijón and Oviedo, in which he took a four-minute lead over Trueba; this rider suffered a puncture which made him lose all his options to the final triumph. We must take into account that, at that time, all the punctures and damages had to be mended by the riders themselves who faced the stages equipped with a spare inner tube, which they had to use very frequently.

Fermín Trueba's victory in the Top stage of the race, which ended in Santander, was not enough to award him the final triumph, though it allowed him the leadership in the Climbers Overall Standings taking a one-point lead over Berrendero. These three riders, main protagonists in this third edition, were very fond of Real Club Deportivo Español and therefore their great performance in the race was also useful to torment their opponents who were faithful followers of the F. C. Barcelona; Trueba, Berrendero and Rodriguez virtually pushed them into the background.

1942: 4th Edition, Madrid - Madrid, June 30th - July 19th

Stages:19, Kms: 3,688, Riders: 40, Retired: 22

Average Speed: 27.505 Kms/hour

The fourth edition of Vuelta a España had a clear protagonist: the Spanish rider Julián Berrendero, who achieved his second consecutive triumph and showed himself to be the best Spanish rider of the moment. His superioriry was so great that he even could afford to fight for the victory in the Climbers Overall Standings, something he had to fight very hard against the Italian rider Brambilla, who did not made the grade in the hardest stages across the North of Spain.

People from Madrid were aware of the overwhelming superiority of the rider and they welcomed him like a hero the last day of the race. More than 100,000 people gathered in Casa de Campo to watch the end of the event and congratulate one of the few men who were able to win Vuelta a España for two consecutive times.

The way to triumph became more clear every day for Berrendero since the very beginning of the race. A puncture suffered by Fermín Trueba made him lose contact with the peloton and was forced to make a great effort in order to catch them up, effort he paid days later. The proceeding of the second stage could not have been better for Berrendero, since another of his rivals, Escuriet, decided to abandon the race in order to meet up with his wife and his newborn child, even if that meant to relinquish the final triumph.

In this way, the rider from Madrid virtually cruised to an easy victory along the Spanish roads and in order to prove it we just have to have a look at the more than eight minute lead he had over the second classified rider in the Individual Overall Standings. Diego Chafer, Antonio A. Sancho, Juan Jimeno and Cipriano Elys completed the first five positions in the Individual Overall Standings, though the difference regarding the winner were spectacular.

If Berrendero´s opponents did not live up to the expectation they had aroused, the sprinter Delio Rodriguez could not match his spectacular performance in the third edition, either. Nevertheless, he achieved eight stage victories, a very acceptable number, though the twelve partial victories he achieved the previous year were even better.

1945. 5th Edition, Madrid - Madrid. May 10th - May 31st

Stages:19, Kms: 3,803, Riders: 51, Retired: 25

Average Speed: 28,018 Kms/hour

People fond of cycling were deprived of Vuelta a España for two years because of the Second World War and the difficult economic situation which Spain was going through. Diario Ya took charge of the organization of the race and they were able to keep the fifth edition going, though with serious difficulties. Cycling and journalism were again walking hand in hand until 1978, although since 1955 El Correo Español-PuebloVasco replaced the Diario Ya in several organizational works.

The cruel war deprived the enthusiasts of the presence of the great foreign riders and only six Portuguese riders started the race in Madrid. Nevertheless, the enthusiasts waned their thirst for cycling with the participation of the most brilliant Spanish figures of the moment: Delio Rodriguez, Chafer, Langarica, Berrendero, Fermín Trueba and Juan Gemino, among others.

None of them started as one of the favorite riders, thing which the rider Delio Rodriguez took good advantage of in order to decide the result of the race in the second stage, an absolute record. He tried a breakway along with another five riders, who pulled away as the kilometers went by.

Rodriguez was able to arrive solo at The Finish with a difference of almost half an hour over the peloton.

From that moment on, the rest of the peloton had to make do with fighting for the Climbers Overall Standings, which was won by Julián Berrendero, who took a one-point lead over Joao Rebelo.

In the Overall Standings, Delio Rodriguez took a 30-minute lead over the second classified rider and more than 60 minutes over Antonio Martín, who was fifth. Juan Jimeno, third and Miguel Gual, fourth, completed the first five positions in the Individual Overall Standings. Along with his final triumph, Rodriguez also achieved six partial victories, less than in previous editions, though, obviously, the real important thing for him was the Individual Overall Standings.

1946. 6th Edition. Madrid - Madrid. May 7th - May 30th

Stages: 23, Kms: 3,797, Riders: 48, Retired: 19

Average Speed: 27.769 Kms/hour

The proceeding of the race in this sixth edition was very similar to the previous edition during the first stages, since a breakaway in those first days almost gave the triumph to a modest rider such as Manuel Costa, who, in the sixth day of the race, lead by 22 and 24 minutes on the two favorites riders, Langarica and Berrendero. However, Langarica's quality and his excellent physical form allowed him to reduce, though with a great effort, that advantage and arrive in Madrid as absolute leader of the race.

The foreign participation was not very significant this time either. Six Dutch riders, five from Portugal and another five from Switzerland made up the foreign group, who, in any moment, threatened the possibilities of the remarkable Spanish stars of the moment. The unexpected winner in the previous edition, Delio Rodriguez, could not repeat his triumph and had to make do with the fifth position, more than 45 minutes below Langarica. Nevertheless, he achieved five new stages troughout the race and therefore, he increased his number of partial victories to thirty-one.

In spite of the advantage that Costa had respect the rest of riders, the enthusiasts' attention was concentrated on the fight between Langarica and Berrendero, who were reducing distances day by day.

Finally, Costa could not resist the pressure and Langarica took the leadership after the stage which covered the way between Reinosa and Gijón. The possibility of an unexpected surprise vanished completely and Dalmacio Langarica was the winner after 3,797 kilometres. Julián Berrendero, Jan Lambrichts, Manuel Costa and Delio Rodriguez, escorted Langarica to the podium in the first five positions in the Individual Overall Standings.

As regards the Climbers Overall Standings, Emilio Rodriguez had an advantage respect Dalmacio Langarica and 25 respect Julián Berrendero, who had been the winner in the two previous editions.

1947. 7th Edition, Madrid - Madrid. May 12th - June 5th

Stages: 24, Kms: 3,893 Riders: 47, Retired: 20

Average Speed: 29.392 Kms/hour

Manuel Costa was about to achieve in this edition the triumph which he could not get the previous year either, but he saw, once again, how the victory was achieved by a rival when the race was about to finish. This time it was the Belgian rider Edouard Van Dyck the one who stood in Costa's way, what means that the Yellow Jersey travelled for a third time to a foreign country. Before this time, only the Belgian rider Gustave Deloor had been able to win Vuelta a España; it was in 1935 and 1936, when the Spanish race was starting out and the conditions in which it was disputed were completely contrary to the present ones.

The tireless Delio Rodriguez, who was the winner in seven stages, ruled completely the first part of the race. He achieved the leadership the first day and was able to keep it until the 12th, when Costa launched his attack and gained an advantage of eight minutes over Rodriguez, who had to add ten more seconds as a penalty for having been helped by a vehicle in one moment of the stage. In this way, the brilliant sprinter lost his option to the final victory, which was now at the mercy of Costa.

However, Van Dyck´s remarkable skill in flat stages and time trials allowed the Belgian rider to obtain the victory which the Spanish rider was about to get. Despite having been unable to get the triumph, more than 50,000 people gave Costa an ovation in the Metropolitan Stadium the last day of the race.

Finally, Manuel Costa was the second classified rider, followed by Delio Rodriguez, Emilio Rodriguez and Joaquín Olmos.

Having a look at the Climbers Overall Standings, Emilio Rodriguez repeated his triumph of the previous year with an advantage of two points over Martín Mancisidor and four over Costa himself, who narrowly missed winning two victories and had to make do with the acknowledgment and admiration of the enthusiasts, since he was never able to achieve a single victory in Vuelta a España.

1948. 8th Edition. Madrid - Madrid. June 13th - 4th July

Stages: 20 Kms: 3,990, Average Speed, 25.723 Kms/Hour

Teams: 11, Riders: 54, Retired: 28

The eighth edition of Vuelta a España had two main protagonists: Bernardo Ruiz and Dalmacio Langarica. The former ruled the whole race with absolute control, as his triumph in the Individual Overall and Climbers Overall Standings shows. Langarica, on the contrary, was the negative protagonist of the race. He went through every kind of misfortune which prevented him from fighting against Ruiz for the final victory.

We also observe in this edition the generation change in Spanish cycling. The star of Julián Berrendero was fading little by little and apart from his physical decline he also suffered a personal loss: his father died halfway through the race which caused his abandon of the race and the beginning and the end of one of the great protagonists in the history of this sport.

The mountainous stages which run along the Cantabric coast decided, once again, the final winner. The excellent physical form that enjoyed Bernardo Ruiz, along with the constant misfortunes that Langarica had to bear, allowed the former to achieve the Yellow Jersey, which he was able to keep almost until the end of the race, though in order to get it he had to resist the constant attacks from Langarica, who promised not to surrender until the arrival in Madrid, a thing that he was able to carry out.

Langarica tried more than twenty attacks during the last seven days, but misfortune, his inseparable companion all throughout the race, hit him once more. During the stage which covered the way between La Coruña and Orense, he suffered a spectacular fall which wrecked all his efforts and separated him from the victory and from the podium as well. Destiny wanted that it was Ruiz the rider who tried the taste of triumph, whereas Langarica had to make do with the unanimous acknowledgment from the enthusiasts.

Emilio Rodriguez, second in the Individual Overall Standings, Capó, third, Langarica, fourth and Mesa fifth scorted Ruiz to the podium, while, regarding the Climbers Overall Standings, Ruiz himself was the leader beating Langarica and Victor Ruiz.

1950. 9th Edition. Madrid - Madrid. August 17th - September 10th

Stages: 24, Kms: 3,932, Riders: 42, Retired:16

Average Speed, 29.118 Kms/hour

Emilio and Manuel Rodriguez were the undisputed protagonists in the edition; they took the first two positions in the Individual Overall Standings and the triumph in the Climbers Overall Standings. However, this edition of Vuelta a España will not only be remembered thanks to this fact, but also because this race marked the end of a period. El Diario Ya organized the race for the last time and transferred the responsability to El Correo Español-El Pueblo Vasco, who took charge of the event; though it only was from 1955 onwards and therefore the enthusiasts were deprived of the race for four years, period which is considered as one of the darkest points in the history of Spanish cycling.

Only 42 riders, 34 Spanish, decided to face the 24 stages, along which they were forced to cover 3,932 kilometers, an enormous amount even nowadays when technology, medicine and physical training are spectacular; therefore such a long route was almost inconceivable in 1950.

The interest decreased as well, given the overwhelming superiority on the part of the brothers Rodriguez, Serra, Bernardo Ruiz, who took the first four positions in the Individual Overall Standings and also Capó and Gelabert.

These six riders won eleven of the 24 stages and set up an unassailable team for the rest of riders; in order to prove it we just have to have a look at the Climbers Overall Standings whose first two positions were also reached by Emilio Rodriguez and Serra.

The emotion present in past editions disappeared, though the proceeding of the race did not change in its basic aspects. The Spanish riders were leaders in the mountainous stages and the foreign riders in the flat stages, something which has been repeated very frequently throughout the history of Spanish cycling.

The brothers Rodriguez, Emilio and Manuel, emulated the Belgian riders Gustave and Alphonse Deloor with their performance; these Belgian riders were the absolute rulers in the edition of 1936, the second in the history of our cycling, in which they took the first two positions.

1955.10th Edition. Bilbao - Bilbao. April 23rd - May 8th

Stages:15 Kms: 2,740, Teams: 18, Riders: 106, Retired: 43

Average Speed: 33.799 Kms/hour

This edition of Vuelta a España, the first one organized by El Correo Español-El Pueblo Vasco, was marvelously welcomed by all the enthusiasts, after four years of absence. The shortage of riders in past editions was completely forgotten with the 106 participants, divided in 18 teams, which took part in this edition of 1955, among who we find a considerable number of both Spanish and foreign important figures. Bahamontes, Loroño, Emilio Rodriguez, Bernardo Ruiz, Poblet, Bauvin, Magni, Geminiani and the still unknown Dotto, who surprisingly achieved the final victory, were most of the best riders in the world and whose participation in this edition made Vuelta a España even more more prestigious.

The enthusiasts concentrated their interest in the first part of the race, mainly in the fierce fight which the Spanish and French riders had against the Italian riders, who were the real rulers in the last part of the race. However the worst enemy of the Spanish riders was the tremendous lack of organization lived among themselves, which handed the triumph to the foreign riders on a plate and deprived the enthusiasts of the third consecutive national victory.

The Transalpine riders certainly showed that they were a real team and won nine of the last ten stages, though they did not pay attention to an exceptional rider, the French rider Dotto who started a breakaway allowed by the peloton and which finally decided the final result of the race. Dotto resisted the attacks from the different riders and was able to arrive in Bilbao as leader, while the Italian riders had to make do with completing their training for Giro de Italia and winning as many stages as they could.

The Spanish rider Jiménez Quiles and the Italian Geminiani escorted Dotto to the podium, while the Climbers Overall Standings was lead by the Transalpine rider Giusseppe Buratti, who had an advantage of four points over Antonio Gelabert and fifteen over the French rider Bauvin.

More coming.....