Vuelta Espana got underway August 19
Leader's jersey has changed color multiple times
Froome hoping to be first British winner
Amongst a sea of high-speed cyclists all sporting an array of different colored jerseys, how do you pick out the race leader?
In each of cycling’s Grand Tours – the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and Spain’s La Vuelta – certain colors are reserved for leading riders.
The Tour de France’s “maillot jaune” – the yellow jersey – is arguably the most iconic piece of clothing in sport, while the Giro hands an eye-catching pink top to the leader.
In La Vuelta, however, the champion’s jersey has changed complexion numerous times across the race’s 82-year history.
It’s gone from orange, to white, then back to orange, then white with a red stripe, then yellow, then orange again, then gold, and finally red – a color organizers have settled on since 2010.
The last race of cycling’s Grand Tours in 2017, La Vuelta got underway in Nîmes, France, on August 19, and concludes in the Spanish capital Madrid on September 10.
Riders fight against heavy legs and tired lungs at the end of a long season, but the route is no less grueling than the other two Grand Tours.
The Vuelta’s ‘vicious’ climbs
Tour de France winner Chris Froome is La Vuelta’s current leader, but the hard work is just beginning for the Briton.
The Cumbre del Sol on the ninth stage ascends close to 400 meters over six kilometers, while the Alto de Los Machucos on stage 17 sees monster inclines of up to 28%.
It’s not a surprise that no rider has conquered all three Grand Tours in the same year. Only six men have won every race, and two of those – Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali – will contest this year’s Vuelta.
For Contador, it’s the final race of a decorated career which includes two victories in the Giro and Le Tour, and three in La Vuelta.
Froome remains the hot favorite to take this year’s race, which started outside Spain for the third time in its history.
Ahead of Friday’s stage, the Brit, who secured his fourth Tour de France title earlier this year, has seen victory in La Vuelta elude him on three occasions, leads the overall standings by 11 seconds.
“I’ve got the opportunity and I’m certainly going to go for it,” Froome said after his Tour de France win.
“To win the Tour and the Vuelta in one year would be absolutely incredible.
“The Vuelta is a race I love – it’s vicious but it’s three weeks that I enjoy. I’ve come second three times now and I’d love to win.”
No rider since 1978 has won the Tour de France and La Vuelta in the same year; Froome would also become the first Brit to wear the red jersey.
Red for the time being, at least.