A historian of Spanish cycling, Alejandro Valverde, will wear from Monday 22 the number one number of a historic and round Volta a Catalunya, the hundredth that has been held since the Day of Kings of 1911, January 6 110 years ago, The first stage of the first Volta started from Barcelona, the oldest cycling race in Spain, the first beacon of modernity in Spanish sport. The first edition did not have more than three stages, joining Barcelona with Tarragona and this one with Lleida. A fourth stage had to be ruled out because there was no good road to link Lleida with Girona. 44 cyclists signed up, all Spanish, 34 started and 22 finished. Third was the Biscayan Vicente Blanco, El Cojo, the first adventurous rider who went to Paris from Spain to participate in the Tour de France.
France had its Tour since 1903; Italy, its Giro since 1909. The practice of cycling, competitions and cycling excursions, was then a symptom of culture, associationism, urban modernity, Europeanism, the rise of a petty bourgeoisie with free time, and industrial Barcelona and urban of the times of Setmana Tràgica was the Spanish capital closest to those ideas. The Spanish Velocipédica Union (former name of the Spanish cycling federation) had its headquarters there and there, a few years before, Narcís Masferrer, its president at various times, his true strength, had founded El Mundo Deportivo in the image of L'Auto Francés. , the newspaper of Henry Desgrange, creator of the Tour. It was precisely a journalist from the then Barcelona sports information weekly, the Sevillian Miguel Artemán, who, infected by Masferrer's propagandist faith, and spokesman for his proposals, who had the first idea of a cycling Volta a Catalunya as a means to publicize the cycling and increasing its popularity.
La Volta than in 100
“The objective was not, as might be suspected, to affirm the Catalan identity through cycling, but quite the opposite”, explains historian Bernat López. “It was, above all, that the Volta was a rehearsal for a more important idea, organizing a real Tour of Spain. Barcelona did not want to detach itself from the rest of Spain and Madrid, but rather to lead the whole country on the path to modernity ”. The rest of Spain turned a deaf ear: the first Vuelta was not organized until 1935, and it was made from Madrid.
The attempt to create a Vuelta a España failed, but the Volta grew with an increasingly Catalanist tint and, organized since its fifth edition, that of 1923 (the years of the First World War and some more of the decade did not run ), by the recently created Unió Esportiva de Sants, reached its first peak in the years of the Second Republic thanks to the figure of Mariano Cañardo, the first great mass idol of Spanish cycling. Cañardo, who in the press of the time occupied as much space as the great bullfighters and footballers, won the Volta seven times between 1928 and 1939. No cyclist has managed to get close, not even Miguel Indurain, three times winner, the same as Valverde. Neither Bahamontes nor Perico ever managed to win it, but Miguel Poblet, the idol of the 1950s, did win it twice. On the second occasion, the 1960 Volta, the cyclist from Montcada i Reixac already wore the white jersey with three green stripes of the UE Sants that began to designate the winner in 1958.
Perhaps the great golden age of the Volta came to a halt in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, when the race became international and achieved such prestige, even higher than that of the Vuelta a España, that there was no champion who did not want to have it. in his record. Already settled in its September dates, which it had to resign to make room for the Vuelta a España that in 1995 left April at the end of the summer, the Volta was, once again, a window open in the middle of the Franco regime to fresh air that blew in Europe, and for the fans, the great opportunity to see their myths up close, the old and the young. If Jacques Anquetil won the Volta in 1967, at the end of his career as a winner of five Tours, a Giro and a Vuelta, Eddy Merckx, the Cannibal, won it the following year, the 1968 so important for the youth of that time for so many reasons. . The Belgian had just turned 23 years old. He hadn't made his Tour debut yet, but he was already the great figure adored after winning the Paris-Roubaix and the Giro d'Italia, apart from the Tour de Romandie and 20 more victories of all kinds. Merckx did not compete in Spain again until 1973, in which he won the only Vuelta he ever played. His great rival in the '68 Volta, as in almost his entire career, was the Italian Felice Gimondi, the winner of the 1965 Tour.
Alejandro Valverde and the 'atomic screws'
Luis Ocaña won the 1971 Volta two months after the fall dressed in yellow in the col de Menté, the great tragedy of his life, which prevented him from defeating Merckx and winning a Tour that was almost his. Gimondi managed to prevail in 1972 and Bernard Thévenet in 1974.
In the hundredth edition, from Monday in Calella, there will not be the big names that have dominated the season until now (Van der Poel, Van Aert and Alaphilippe are already installed in Belgium to the month of the classics), but yes those who will take over in the stage events. There will be Chris Froome with his new team, Israel, there will be Nairo Quintana and there will be Richard Carapaz, leading the Ineos of Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates. Enric Mas will contest his second race after the Tour de Provence, and Joao Almeida and Jay Hindley will reissue their duel from the past Giro. The key stages will be the time trial on Tuesday in Banyoles and the finals in Vallter 2000 (Wednesday) and Port Ainé (Thursday) to finish on Sunday at the Montjuïc circuit
As a prologue, the Volta has presented in Movistar the documentary Volta, 100 years of cycling , which, like the race itself, does not want to be a small local story but a visual love poem for cycling, its only religion for more than 100 years.
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