By Andrew Hood
If Saturday’s rowdy and enthusiastic welcome for the Vuelta a España is any indication, next year’s Giro and Tour starts should be off the charts.
An estimated 40,000 fans braved wind, cold and rain to watch SuperFabio roar into the leader’s jersey at the Vuelta, so just imagine what it’s going to be like in Amsterdam, which hosts the Giro start in May, and Rotterdam, which has the Tour’s grand depart in July.
Holland is playing host to all three grand tours and the Dutch fans seem up to the task of making the pro peloton feel welcome.
Some 11,000 fans rode a pre-stage public tour before the start of the race in Assen and then happily stayed dry under the finish-line grandstands. Beer stalls and food tents kept everyone well-plied and the biggest cheers were for the Dutch riders, especially Lars Boom and Robert Gesink.
The riders said they enjoyed the Dutch flavor to the start of the Vuelta.
“When I saw so many people in the grand stands, it gave me an extra motivation. It’s not often we get to race in an arena-setting like this with so many public, so I wanted to go even faster,” Cancellara said. “It’s a big surprise to be racing in Holland for the Vuelta. Everyone knows that Holland is a big cycling country.”
No less than four Canadians started the 64th Vuelta a España, a grand tour record for the Great White North.
Dominique Rollin of Cervélo TestTeam joins the Garmin-Slipstream trio of Ryder Hesjedal, Christian Meier and Svein Tuft.
“It’s a record for Canada. When there were two Canadians in the same race, it was a big deal, so this is a sign that Canadian cycling is really growing,” Rollin said. “This is my first grand tour. I’m excited but a little nervous, too.”
Only the tough need apply
Five riders are starting their third grand tour of the year: Charles Wegelius (Silence-Lotto), Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and David Millar, Julian Dean and Tyler Farrar (all Garmin-Slipstream). Only tough-guys Wegelius and Dean finished both the Giro and Tour.
Rubiera to ride one more season
José Luís Rubiera isn’t done yet.
Coaxed out of his retirement plans for 2009 to ride as part of Lance Armstrong’s comeback season, the veteran Spanish rider is once again delaying his plans to hang up the cleats.
Rubiera, who was one of the loyal lieutenants during Armstrong’s seven-year Tour de France reign, will ride one more season with RadioShack in 2010, the Spanish media reported.
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