Next legendary stage, La Pandera?
Vuelta 2002 is going to find in Sierra Jierense a new top: La Pandera. This new scenery has already been visited by many riders. No one wants to be badly surprised when climbing La Pandera, mountain that has been called the South Angliru. One of the first riders who has visited the famous climb has been Oscar Sevilla, one of the candidates to the final triumph.
The rider from Ossa de Montiel climbed the mountain with a 39x23 and it was hardly impossible for him. He admitted that a 39x25 would have been necessary. Oscar says that La Pandera is very similar to El Angliru. After the cross between Valdepeñas de Jaén and Los Villares, the climb starts. There are 9 kilometres from the old radar station. The first 6oo metres are very tough, with very steep climbs. The difficulty changes from a 15 to a 9 per cent slope. Then it becomes a bit easier but always with an average slope of 7 per cent. The last stretch is very tough again with 14 per cent slope before reaching the finish line.
According to Sevilla "it is hell." "El Triqui" Beltrán knows the area very well as it is the place he uses for training. These two riders could be the best "reporters" of the area.
A blind man discovered the Angliru
The ex-professional rider and journalist from Asturias, Enrique Cima, says in his book that, though it may seem a joke, it was a blind man who was the first person to think about the Angliru as a mountain to be climbed by the riders taking part in Vuelta a España. This man, called Miguel Prieto from Sama de Langreo and who works in Madrid for the ONCE, one day visited the Angliru with his wife Marta and he suddenly realized that the name of this mountain was going to be written in the history books of Vuelta a España very soon. He searched for any kind of information related to the Angliru and he sent many letters. One of these letters was read by Alberto Gadea, in Unipublic, and he did not throw it away.
Those who work with Enrique Franco started to work on this new challenge and it was the General Manager of La Vuelta himself the one who stepped in. From that moment on, the Angliru stopped being just another mountain to become the most difficult top in Vuelta a España.
Shorter Stages - Faster times
All along Vuelta 2001, everybody spoke about an incredible speed, they spoke about flying instead of riding, they spoke about a possible historic record. In Madrid, the news was confirmed near Puerta de Alcalá: the new speed record had been settled as 42.534 kilometres per hour. It is the record beaten by 139 survivors after having covered 3,012 kilometres since they left Salamanca.
Angel Casero ended the race with a time of 70 hours, 49 minutes and 5 seconds. The previous record was in the hands of Alex Zulle achieved in 1997; that year, 3,760 kilometres were covered and the average speed of the peloton was 41.344 kilometres per hour.
Stars, Domestiques and -er animals!
La Vuelta will come back this year to Portillo de la Sía. We will be able, once again, to enjoy the beauty of the mountains and animals of Cantabria. Everybody remembers those horses that, for more than one kilometre, lead the way of the riders along the descent of La Sía. Those photos were brilliant and the horses did not cause any accident. The riders showed that they are capable of climbing down a mountain surrounded by animals. History reminds us that, during the first years of La Vuelta, the animals - goats, hens, cows or dogs - did not miss a single stage of the race when they reached the mountain. Some people still remember that stage between Salamanca and Cáceres when a mule appeared in the middle of the peloton and started to kick the riders and their bikes.
An accident of that kind never happened again. Those were different times. This year the riders have the chance of crossing the Natural Reserves and of showing that bikes are indeed made to be used in the nature. This year, La Vuelta crosses the Natural Reserve of Cuenca Alta del Manzanares and a famous road as well, the M - 618, very suitable to train on a bike all the year long. Most riders from Madrid use it, because it has rises and descents as well as long flat areas.
Singing...and winter fitness with washing machines
It is not a surprise, at Christmas, we learnt that some riders sing very well and that they can sing along with Pastora Soler as some of them did last year. Angel Casero, Santi Blanco, Domínguez and Anguita, among others, made a beautiful chorus last Christmas. Santos González helped them with his guitar. Juan Carlos Guillamón, the Spanish champion, also dared to sing some songs. His partners in Jazztel - Costa de Almería has already said that he should try his voice at a song contest as he is said to sing even better than singers such as Bisbal, Bustamante and Manu Tenorio, very well-known singers nowadays in Spain.
The present Spanish champion is a very special person, those who know him well say that he does not go to the gym in winter because he helps a friend deliver washing machines and, in that way, he gets more exercise.
M’s the word!
Letters and surnames could also be a reference point when establishing statistics. If we talk about Vuelta leaders, we find out that the surnames that start with an "I" have not been very lucky in La Vuelta. Miguel Indurain was leader for just four days in Vuelta 1985. With the letter "N" there is only name: Nijdam, who was leader for two days in Vuelta 1992. We do not have leaders starting with the letters "Ñ", "Q", X" or "Y", despite Yañez´s performance in the hardest passes such as Sierra Nevada.
The luckiest letter seem to be the "M" as many leaders of La Vuelta has a surname stating with "M": Maé, Maertens, Manzaneque, Marie, Marigil, Martina, Mas, Mauri, Mercks, Michaelsen, Millar, Messelis, Momeñe, Montoya, Morales and Moser. Martens won La Vuelta in 1977, Mauri did the same in 1991 and Merckx in 1973. So... watch the "M".
Courtesy of La Vuelta