The Coffee Ride: La Vuelta Begins At Home

10434196_10152026673161685_6008497908754232477_n If you don't speak Spanish, this is the easiest way to immerse yourself in all the glory that is the Vuelta a Espana. 

The final Grand Tour of the year is the Vuelta a Espana. Equal in length to the Giro and Tour, la Vuelta has become one of the most entertaining events of the past four or five years. There's a lot on the line; for many GC riders it's the last chance to take a career-making win, score some valuable WorldTour points, or even try to earn a contract for the next season.

The Vuelta has put together some tremendous routes over the past few years, and the exciting racing and numerous mountain top finishes has increased the prestige and competition at the Spanish race. This year, after a Tour with a lot of crashes and injuries, many bodies are fresh and ready for the road to Madrid. Chris Froome, Cadel Evans, Joaquim Rodriguez, Janez Brajkovic, Thibout Pinot and Alberto Contador. It's an all-star line-up, and one that will only be rivaled by Ec's own version right here in Traverse City.

The Speed of Light Vuelta Competition begins this Thursday with the first stage of four.  Right from the gun, the Mountains jersey takes center stage, with double points on offer over the Hill on Iceman Course. The second stage is for the sprinters, a rare chance to shine and nab double points over the Vasa Power Section.

Stage Three is the second day of double points for the climbers. It's going to be a very exciting day, as the rider with full points today will have a big advantage heading into the finale. It'll be normal points for the last stage, but the fight for general classification honors will come down to the wire.

Jason Lowetz returns to Speed of Lights as the defending Vuelta champion, but he'll be up against a number of challengers including Lars Welton, Craig Webb, Ty Schmidt, Tour winner Keegan Myers and his teammate Sean Kickbush, and the KEEN riders Tim Pulliam, Eli Brown and Scott Luca. He'll be supported by Jason Whittaker, Jake Ellis, Ryan Kennedy, Rob Goepfrich and Wes Sovis.

The race in Spain will be finishing up just a few days later on September 14. After three weeks, the best rider is sure to win, with no excuses left on the table. The Vuelta kicks off with a team time trial, with the first summit finish coming on the sixth stage of the race. Make sure you circle the weekend of September 6, where riders take on three straight summit finishes heading into the final rest day.