Vuelta a Espana – Top 10 Time Analysis 1998-2014

This is part of my project to analyse the Grand Tours by looking at the times of the top ten riders in relation to the race leader. This produces some rather lovely graphs which show an interesting picture of the race, showing the time gaps between riders at different stages, the rate of gain they were making at different stages and when they overtook other riders etc.

The graphs should be fairly self explanatory, but I’ve hopefully added enough comment to explain any issues with them. There will undoubtedly be mistakes somewhere, but I’ll sort them out if they’re spotted.

I’ve put all the Giro time graphs on the same scale so that comparison over time can be carried out, as this allows you to see if races were particularly close compared to others or if there was more movement between riders.

Image can be clicked to expand

The four segment represent four different things:

TOP LEFT: This shows the time from the leader of each rider who would end up being in the top ten at the end of the race. It is worth noting that there will be times when none of these riders were leading the race.
BOTTOM LEFT: This shows the position on the General Classification of each rider after the stage.
TOP RIGHT: This shows the time from the leader of the three riders who would finish on the podium. The scale is adjusted to make their duel clearer.
BOTTOM RIGHT: These images are pictures of each stage win by a rider who would finish in the top 10.

It should be noted that these are all taken on the results of the race at the time, rather then after the endless (and pointless in some cases) revisions. So people like Floyd Landis are down as winning the 2006 Tour etc.

In the 17 editions between 1998 and 2014, there have been twelve different winners from six different countries:

Abraham Olano (ESP) 1998
Jan Ullrich (GER) 1999
Roberto Heras (ESP) 2000, 2003-2005
Angel Casero (ESP) 2001
Aitor Gonzalez (ESP) 2002
Alexander Vinokourov (KAZ) 2006
Denis Menchov (RUS) 2007
Alberto Contador (ESP) 2008, 2012, 2014
Alejandro Valverde (ESP) 2009
Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) 2010
Juan Jose Cobo (ESP) 2011
Chris Horner (USA) 2013

There is a tremendous faff about the 2005 Vuelta, which was originally won by Roberto Heras, then awarded to Denis Menchov, then subsequently returned to Heras. Frankly, neither is really an ideal candidate and the case is beyond dull so we’ll just stick with giving it to Heras.

The team of the winner is also varied.

Liberty Seguros/Astana – 4 wins (Heras 04-05, Vinokourov 06, Contador 08)
Banesto/Caisse d’Epargne – 2 wins (Olano 98, Valverde 09)
Kelme-Costa Blanca – 2 wins (Heras 00, Gonzalez 02)
SaxoBank/TinfoffSaxo – 2 wins (Contador 12/14)
Radioshack – 1 win (Horner 13)
Rabobank – 1 win (Menchov 07)
Liquigas – 1 win (Nibali 10)
Geox-TMC – 1 win (Cobo 11)
Festina – 1 win (Casero 01)
US Postal – 1 win (Heras 03)
Telekom – 1 win (Ullrich 99)

The result of this is that the bike manufacturers are fairly broad.

Trek – 3 wins (Heras 03, Contador 08, Horner 13)
BH – 3 wins (Heras 04/05, Vinokourov 06)
Specialized – 3 wins (Casero 01, Contador 12/14)
Look – 2 wins (Heras 00, Gonzalez 02)
Pinarello – 2 wins (Olano 98, Valverde 09)
Fuji – 1 win (Cobo 11)
Giant – 1 win (Ullrich 99)
Cannondale – 1 win (Nibali 10)
Colnago – 1 win (Menchov 07)

From a possible but unlikely total of 170 different riders, 95 different riders have been in the top ten of the Vuelta, having taken part in a combined 431 Tours between them (averaging 4.54, or 5 Vueltas each). There were 78 withdrawals (18.09%), and unlike the Tour or the Giro, no disqualifications or instances of being outside the time limit.vuelta10s

This page is about the Vuelta, so on we go…

1998 Vuelta a Espana


I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the Vuelta to really be able to comment on it properly, plus it was underreported, hence why I’ve had to go with stock pictures of some stage winners rather than images of the actual wins. The 1998 ediiton was won by Abraham Olano, who would later become World time trial champion, and he essentially won with that time trialling skill, taking the lead, allowing his lead to be chipped away, even briefly losing it but having enough in the tank to take back the time and more to secure victory. Spare a thought for Laurent Jalabert, who occupied second place for most of the race until cracking in the last few days to fall to fifth. Also notable is the profile of Lance Armstrong, in his first post-cancer grand tour, riding consistently to 4th place.

1999 Vuelta a Espana


A classic “breakaway U” graph, it also shows that Jan Ullrich was rarely troubled, and wouldnt have been worried even if he had, given he took so much time back in the breakaway. That said, the last half of the race looks fairly dull, given the times until the time trial are near identical, and with only one positional change between 4th and 5th. This marked the second time in two years that a world TT champion would triumph at the Vuelta.

2000 Vuelta a Espana


Roberto Heras’ first triumph produced a mess of a graph, with three different men from the final top 10 taking the jersey or being equal on time to the leaderat some point. It did look in the mid week that Casero and Heras might be in for a duel, but Heras put 3 and a half minutes into everyone and could effectively cruise the final week, which is an odd trend for Vueltas, which often have the race decided by the end of week two with little movement in the final week. Given the calls for a two week Vuelta, it’s probably best to ignore that…

2001 Vuelta a Espana


The first of two Vuelta’s in a row with exciting final days, as Angel Casero snatched the lead from Oscar Sevilla, He had been chipping away anyway, and it seems clear from the graph that it was only ever going to be between those two riders, although it should be noted that Levi Leipheimer poached the last podium place on the final day as well, having been third for two days at the end of the first week but lying 5th until the final day otherwise.

2002 Vuelta a Espana


The second of the Vuelta’s final day finales went to Aitor Gonzalez, whose time triallling ability is obvious from the graph. Unlike Casero the previous year, Gonzalez did at least hold the same position as the man in golden leaders tunic for a few days (he didn’t actually wear it despite being on the same time as Oscar Sevilla) before losing an almost absurd time loss to Roberto Heras which he recovered in the TT. Also noteworthy is poor Oscar Sevilla, pipped to the overall in 2001, now pipped to the podium on the final day after leading the race by Joseba Beloki, who had led the race in the first week thanks to ONCE’s TTT prowess.

2003 Vuelta a Espana


On the receiving end of a final day( well, penultimate, but the final stage was an effective criterium) swing in 2002, in 2003 Roberto Heras was the beneficiary this time around, after Benjamin Nozal took the lead for 15 days only to watch everyone pull themselves back in the final week. Heras would win by just 28 seconds, whilst Alejandro Valverde made his Grand Tour podium debut by pulling himself up in the last week and final TT to push Igor Gonzalez to 4th.

2004 Vuelta a Espana


Heras’ third win was probably the second easiest, although allowing Phonak’s Santiago Perez to take three stage wins in the last week to move from 5 and a half minutes to 30 seconds behind was probably a mix of complacency and the Phonak mans prowess. Again, there were penultimate day podium moves though, with Valverde, a beneficiary of such a move last year, the victim this time round as Francisco Mancebo overhauled (well, popped over- they were effectively on the same time) him for the final spot in Madrid.

2005 Vuelta a Espana


No one can seem to decide if Roberto Heras won this, and the title has see sawed between him and Denis Menchov over his EPO case, but then Menchov isnt exactly the most noble competitor to inherit the win so it’s effectively moot. Regardless, the race was only really between Menchov and Carlos Sastre for 2nd, so far ahead was Heras (4 and a half minutes). Again, the final week of the race was fairly lax in terms of time changes and positional changes.

2006 Vuelta a Espana


A little like 2014 in that it was the race for those riders who hadn’t been able to ride the Tour, pitting Alejandro Valverde (who had broken his collarbone at the Tour) against Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov (whose team’s predecessor, Liberty Seguros, had been barred for having too few riders left once the Operacion Puerto suspicions culled five riders from the teams starting line up. Originally, it looked like Valverde would be the winner with Vinokourov working for his compatriot Kashechkin, but Vinokourov overcame his poor start to take 4 stage wins and blugen his way into the lead, although most of hus time was gained in a move with Tom Danielson, which shows up comparatively on the graph.

2007 Vuelta a Espana


Menchov made sure he would actually win a Vuelta (Given the 2005 rigmarole) by taking this edition at a canter, with the real entertainment being future Olympic Champion Samuel Sanchez taking three stage wins in the last week to just sneak onto the podium. Spare a thought for Cadel Evans and Ezequiel Mosquera, who were occupying the podium positions for  a good while in what looks like a relatively tame middle week given the lack of movement in the graph, but whom would ultimately swing down to the middle of the top 10 roster.

2008 Vuelta a Espana


Just like 2006, Astana weren’t at the Tour, so they came to the Vuelta with an absurdly strong team to deliver Alberto Contador to a clean sweep of Grand Tour titles in record quick time. It’s one of those Vuelta’s where time bonuses made the difference, although Contador still would win by milliseconds if they were removed. For a race seemingly dominated by Astana and Contador, it is odd that four riders (Valverde, Martinez, Leipheimer and Contador) would wear the malliot oro, although the race was done by stage 13 when Contador danced a decent sized gap to the Tour winner Carlos Sastre. Notice again, however, the horizontal lines in the final week – nothing was happenning, again! This suggests there was some off course design at the Vuelta in the noughties, with all the action crammed into the middle week. Odd.

2009 Vuelta a Espana


A Vuelta notable for the fact that no one on the podium won a stage – indeed, only the men in 9th and 10th place won stages. The thing to note is the time loss of Cadel Evans on stage 12, which was due to a puncture, and which he believes probably cost him the win. It’s easy to see why me might think that as well, given he made a slight net gain on Valverde in the following stages, albeit not quire enough to cancel out the deficit he had.

2010 Vuelta a Espana


It’s a shame Igor Anton can’t be represented in this, as it seemed certain he would win the race up until his crash out of the race on stage 14, giving Vincenzo Nibali the new red jersey that had replaced the old golden one. Nibali did forfeit the jersey to Joaquim Rodriguez for a day, only for Rodriguez to lose copious amount of time in the flat 46km time trial. This time trial effectively settled the race, with no real movement between the contenders in last few days, although excitement was maintained by Ezequiel Mosquera trying to overhaul the Italian on the Bola del Mundo. He failed, and Nibali took the jersey, whilst the rather decisive TT put stage winner Peter Velits in 3rd.

2011 Vuelta a Espana


This was meant to be Bradley Wiggins’ grand tour triumph, a confirmation of his powers after the 2009 Tour and crashing out of the 2011 Tour. He ended up not even being the best rider on his own team, as after the hastily assembled ITV commentary team had had kittens drooling over the fact he rode up the mountains so fast and basically declared the race over given their was a TT to come. Chris Froome suddenly beat his leader in the TT to assume the leaders jersey. Meanwhile, JJ Cobo had been lurking behind his own team leader Denis Menchov and stole 20 seconds (+ time bonuses) the day before his career defining day on the Angrilu, where he took a further 48 seconds (and more bonus seconds) to assume the lead as Wiggins ground to a halt. A duel between Froome and Cobo then ensured, with Froome narrowing the gap slightly, but as the graph shows, the last few days were actually very dull – there were no changed in GC and essentially no time changes either – only the fact that the riders were separated by 13 seconds made it interesting.

2012 Vuelta a Espana


The Tour Joaquim Rodriguez deserved to win, and which will probably haunt him for some time. Rodriguez was incredible for all but one stage, but it was that stage that cost him the race as Contador pulled away to Fuente De. Rodriguez was even denied the combination classificaion by Valverde, and this is after his impressive feat of holding onto the jersey by a single second in the time trial. This race orginally started as a battle between Contador, Rodriguez, Valverde and Chris Froome, but Froome dropped away by stage 13 and left the three Spanish Musketeers to battle it out, After some higely exciting duels between the three that are not necessarily borne out by the graphs, it was Contador who would triumph.

2013 Vuelta a Espana


Chris Horner. Chris ruddy Horner. The American has quite an ego, but this is an example of him actually delivering, albeit against a tiring Nibali. In the same way that Bradley Wiggins’ 2012 Tour win was the perfect storm of ideal course, a lack of top contenders and tired key rivals (Evans in that case), this Vuelta was the same for Horner. Still, it was entertaining, with the lead changing hands multiple times between the top 10 contenders (Roche, Nibali, Horner and Moreno all held it) and the last week was especially exciting as Horner gradually pulled back the lead of Nibali in small chunks.

2014 Vuelta a Espana


Billed as a showdown between the returning Tour fallers of Contador and Froome, with the back up of Giro winner Nairo Quintana and perenial Vuelta performers Valverde and Rodriguez, the race didn’t quite turn out that way due to Quintana’s crash and the fact that Contador had seemingly been telling fibs as to his condition. Froome also morphed into someone who could only ride at a certain pace, having been able to furiously accelerate before, and this carried him to second overall ahead of Valverde, who fell away from his early lead.

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