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Vuelta a Espana

The Vuelta A Espana bicycle race is one of the three "Grand Tours" of Europe and, after the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, the third most important road cycling stage race in the world.

First held in 1935 and annually since 1955, the Vuelta runs for three weeks in a changing route across Spain. It was formerly held in the spring, but since 1990 the race has been run in September. The course includes two individual time trials. The finish of the Vuelta is traditionally the Spanish capital, Madrid.

The inaugural event (1935) saw 50 entrants face a 3411 km course over only 14 stages, averaging over 240km per stage.

In 1998, for the first time, the course crossed the Alto de Angliru in Asturias, which climbs 1573 meters over 12.9km with grades as steep as 23.6 percent (at Cueña les Cabres) making it one of the steepest in Europe. Credit for the discovery of this climb and its addition to the Vuelta goes to Miguel Prieto.

The overall leader wears a Golden Jersey, the Spanish counterpart to the yellow jersey of the Tour de France. Other jerseys honor the best climber (King of the Mountains) and the best sprinter (points competition).

Swiss cyclist Tony Rominger holds the record for wins with three consecutive first-place victories, which he achieved in 1992, 1993 and 1994. Only four cyclists have won all three of the major tours (Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault). Three Germans have taken first place: Rudi Altig (1962), Rolf Wolfshohl (1965) and Jan Ullrich (1999). The Spaniards, however, have dominated, winning 26 of the 57 runnings of the Vuelta. France, Belgium, Italy, Holland, Colombia, and Ireland have also had first place finishers.

Only three cyclists have won stages in all three of the Grand Tours (La Vuelta, the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia) in the same year:

Winners of the Vuelta a Espana: