The Vuelta field was like the crew of a pirate ship. It was cobbled together with unmotivated riders who’d been pressganged into racing, riders who’d been injured earlier in the year, and a decent smattering of desperadoes and mercenaries to boot. There was no middle ground; either riders didn’t want to be there, or they were desperate to perform. The rate of rider abandons was staggering as teams sent troupes of exhausted riders to compete with Spaniards who wanted to plunder the race as quickly and violently as they could.
Throughout the race I started to feel like I was so focused on my own goal of survival that I wasn’t even really there. I was oblivious to everything else. I kept up to date with what was actually happening in the race by reading La Marca each morning, and often I was genuinely surprised to see the results. I was so far from being in the action that I had no idea what was going on in the actual race.
— Charly Wegelius in ‘Domestique’ on his experiences at the 2002 Vuelta.
Near the summit, the names of cyclists that were painted on the road have worn away with time. They tell the story of a race and mark a generation. Heras, Mancebo, Ullrich. Their names are fading like their results. Years ago, they stormed the climb in front of tens of thousands of fervent fans who had crossed the continent to see them ascend. Like ghosts their names now haunt cycling; they inspired with their heroics and disappointed when those performances were proven to be drug enhanced. But their inhuman performances still endure. Stories of their elegant force are forever told.
— Michael Barry in ‘Le Metier’.