Friday, August 26, 2005

ON THE EVE OF VUELTA A ESPANA 2005

THIRD OF THE "GRAND TOURS." It won't command a fraction of the attention Americans paid to the Tour de France in July, but the third of pro cycling's annual "Grand Tours," la Vuelta a Espana--Tour of Spain--begins tomorrow. Attention Spanish language students and teachers: consider the teaching and learning possibilities of tracking a three-week tour of Spain online!

FROM SUMMER TO FALL. We Americans have turned to other interests and are looking toward fall. But this 21-stage race, spanning August 27 to September 18, has all the makings of a dramatic international competition. There are American contenders and a powerful Discovery Channel team that may be sorting out a post-Armstrong team leader. Why not let this spectacle draw you day by day through the transition from summer to autumn?

THE MAKINGS OF A DRAMATIC EVENT. Like the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) and Tour de France, "the Vuelta" is a three-week combination of time trials, mountain climbs, and sprint events that occur along a 3,368.5 kilometer "loop" of Spain. First ridden in 1935 (see the photo above), the Vuelta is usually won by a native Spanish son and the crowds are quite partisan. But no rider or team concedes anything to the host country. The Vuelta is wide open. You can get daily updates, photos, and race analysis at www.cyclingnews.com or www.velonews.com or www.lavuelta.com (the official site).

AMERICANS IN SPAIN. Two Americans I will be watching closely in the Vuelta are Tom Danielson and Floyd Landis. Landis leads the Phonak team, having earned his stripes in recent years as a support rider for Armstrong. Tom Danielson, on the Discovery Channel squad, will be riding in his first Grand Tour. Danielson won the Tour of Georgia (ahead of Armstrong) in the spring.

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