7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book which ends too soon,
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This review is from: Viva La Vuelta!: The Story of Spain's Great Bike Race (Paperback)
This book has often been recommended by amongst others, EuroSport cycling commentators (make of that what you will!). It is the *only* detailed history of the third of the Grand Tours, the Vuelta a Espana; my personal favourite of the great stage races and also that of many cycling fans, since it tends to be the most unpredictable of all the Tours. That on its own would be enough to recommend this book to many; it is also well written and well researched.
This book narrates the story of the tour from its inception until right after the end of the 2005 edition, covering on the way the story of the race's not always easy relationship with the Spanish powers that be. El Caudillo, Franco, attempted to exploit the race for his own ends; non-Spanish riders were often put off attempting this race for that reason, and also because (until Spanish cycling had an attack of sanity - IMO of course - in the 1980s) the Vuelta usually overlapped with the Giro d'Italia and non-Spanish cyclists would more often than not choose to ride the 'more prestigious' event. The historical and political background is well presented by the authors, and I learned a great deal not only about the Vuelta but about recent Spanish history from reading this book. That the race has survived, and has against the odds continued to grow in standing especially over the past decade, is a tribute both to the organisers' ability, and to their sheer determination. This book gives both the cycling enthusiast and the general sports fan a great insight into this process.
Viva La Vuelta! ends in October 2005, just after Roberto Heras's 3rd successive (4th in total) Vuelta victory. Spanish cycling has found itself a new hero; the future for the Cinderella of the Grand Tours looks to be assured. But anyone who knows anything about cycling has to know what happened next. Prefiguring the great scandals which have since surrounded the Tour de France, both Heras's victory and that of Alexandre Vinokourov in 2006 have since been eclipsed by accusations and confirmations of unacceptable doping practices. Heras's fourth title has been stripped from him; even Vino's looks highly questionable now, in the light of his blood-doping disqualification at the 2007 Tour de France. The Vuelta's real hero of recent years proves to be Denis Menchov, a Spanish-based Russian who is alluded to in this book only in passing, as a great competitor but not as a winner.
Fortunately for the sport, Menchov has now won the Vuelta clean and clear, in 2007. Most unfortunately though, he now appears to be the only completely untainted Grand Tour winner since ... perhaps one shouldn't speculate. With 20-20 hindsight, this book concludes on a note that is both creepy and very sad, with praise given to those who least deserve it, and optimism (though the writers could not have known it) both misplaced and misconceived.
Still highly recommended to any interested in the history of this great bike race; but I have docked it a star because it is more than overdue for a second edition.
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Initial post: 16 Jul 2010 17:55:12 BDT
MISS Andrea Hill says:
There is now an additional supplement that rewrites the 2005 Vuelta and brings the history up to date to 2008, it is equally as well written and insightful.
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