The cyclists raced through Benalmádena Costa on Thursday morning. EFE
Last Thursday saw crowds in their thousands flocking to the streets of Malaga Province to cheer -on the cyclists competing in the 2014 Vuelta a España.
The previous day hordes of people lined La Avenida de Málaga as the peloton arrived in Ronda to complete the fifth stage of the race. Cyclists were battling against difficult conditions and had to endure 40 degree heat. However the energy from the spectators was more than enough to push them on to cross the finish line. It was Germany’s John Degenkolb who took first place, claiming his second consecutive stage victory.
It was the spirit of the fans, cycling enthusiasts and general spectators alike that spurred on the competitors during the extremely challenging sixth leg of the event on Thursday. In Malaga, crowds gathered on Avenida Valle-Inclán and at other points of the route between La Cala and Torre del Mar. This stage traced some 167 kilometres stretching from Benalmádena to the Cumbres Verdes of La Zubia, passing through Torremolinos, Churriana, Malaga, Rincón de la Victoria, Torre del Mar, Vélez-Málaga, Alto de Zafarraya, Alto de Bermejales, Alhendín and Granada. Despite a fairly flat opening 50 kilometres along the Costa del Sol, the end of the route saw the cyclists tackling their first summit finish with a steep six kilometre climb to the top. This time it was to be a tremendous victory for Spaniard Alejandro Valverde whose strengths lie both in speed and in up-hill cycling.
The Vuelta a España 2014 started last Saturday (23 August) with a warm up 12.6 kilometre team time trial through the streets of Jerez de la Frontera in the southwest of the country. Team Movistar, which includes lead cyclists Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana, won this first stage with a faultless performance.
Over the next two weeks the race will continue to work its way up to the northwest of Spain finishing with a flat ten kilometre time trial in the capital of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela, on 14 September. However the stages leading up to the grand finale will present even greater challenges than what we have already seen as the cyclists will have to overcome a further seven summit finishes with each ascent getting tougher than the last.
Looking ahead to next year, the Costa del Sol is set to be the starting point for the 2015 Vuelta a España, although the exact location within the Malaga province has not yet been decided.