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Nine — it isn’t much, but it’s a record. Thirty years after the first American-registered team raced the Vuelta a España, a record number of Americans will take the start in Puerto Banus on Saturday.
The 70th Vuelta a España will begin with an American contingent that has been breathing new life into American racing, a fresh generation of riders. The average age of the nine gringos is 25 years old.
Cannondale-Garmin brings a slew of Americans to the Vuelta, with Ben King, Joe Dombrowski, Alex Howes, and Andrew Talansky all flying the argyle flag in Spain.
BMC Racing’s Joey Rosskopf and Tejay van Garderen will join them. The latter making his first racing appearance since a dramatic exit from the Tour de France. Van Garderen dropped out of the Tour on stage 17, while sitting third overall. It will be Rosskopf’s grand tour debut.
Lawson Craddock (Giant-Alpecin), Ian Boswell (Team Sky), and Larry Warbasse (IAM Cycling) will all be the lone Americans on their respective teams, but all will likely make appearances in the breakaways at some point. Giant-Alpecin and IAM Cycling are looking for stage wins with their respective sprinters, John Degenkolb and Matteo Pelucchi. Team Sky is aiming for overall glory with Tour de France champion Chris Froome.
Nine riders at the Vuelta comes in stark contrast to the lowly three Americans that participated in the Tour de France: van Garderen, Talansky, and Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka).
La Vuelta does not quite have the rich history the Tour has, with Americans entering the scene late.
Beginning in 1935, the race survived two wars and organizational instability to make it to its 10th edition in 1955 and has run continuously ever since. Mike Neel, an American cycling trailblazer, was the first American to ride the Vuelta in 1977 and got the momentum going for an American boom years later.
Robin Morton, the first women to manage a top professional men’s team, brought the first American-registered team to the Vuelta, Xerox-Philadelphia in 1985. Seven Americans rode for Xerox, and with current Olympic champion Alexi Grewal riding for Panasonic-Raleigh, making it an unprecedented eight Americans in that edition of the Vuelta, the most ever until this year.
The young guns
In late August, many veteran riders in the peloton are drained mentally and physically, and the Vuelta offers teams an opportunity to let their young up-and-comers get their feet wet in a grand tour. The Vuelta will be the maiden grand tour for Dombrowski, Rosskopf, and Boswell, and only the second for King and Warbasse. The Vuelta will be Howes’ third grand tour.
Talansky and van Garderen are the veterans of the group with the Vuelta being their seventh grand tour apiece, but aged 26 and 27, respectively, they are still young and maturing as grand tour riders.
Three decades from the first American boom at the Vuelta another one occurs, setting the stage for another crop of Americans to find success at the world’s youngest grand tour.
American riders in Vuelta a Espana by year
2015 – 9
2014 – 4
2013 – 6 – first American Vuelta GC win
2012 – 3
2011 – 4
2010 – 6
2009 – 3
2008 – 1 – first American Vuelta podium
2007 – 4
2006 – 3
2005 – 4
2004 – 5
2003 – 6
2002 – 4
2001 – 4 – first American Vuelta stage win
2000 – 2
1999 – 6
1998 – 3
1997 – 4
1996 – 4
1995 – 3
1994 – 0
1993 – 0
1992 – 0
1991 – 0
1990 – 0
1989 – 0
1987 – 0
1986 – 2
1985 – 0
1984 – 8
1983 – 0
1982 – 1
1981 – 0
1980 – 0
1979 – 0
1978 – 0
1977 – 1 – first American participation