Le Tour and La Vuelta both offer a financial reward to the rider who is judged to have displayed the greatest desire for combat during a given day. The winner of this prize on the Tour de France earns €2,000 whereas the winner in La Vuelta earns one-tenth of that figure. If the riders are motivated by financial incentives then one would imagine €2,000 rather than €200 encourages greater effort. There are also financial rewards for the first three riders to pass a particular point within a day's racing. The financial reward for these intermediate sprints also differs significantly between the two tours. In the Tour de France, the winner of an intermediate sprint earns €1,500, the rider in second gets €1,000, and the rider in third place gets €500. Similar positions in Spain earn €135, €45 and €25. In other words, a rider would need to accumulate 20 third places in Spain to earn the same as one third place in the Tour de France. It would be interesting to match the financial incentives with some measure of effort. Without this data we are left to judge by our own eyes and the words of the commentators. It was Sean Kelly (EuroSport) who listed the financial incentives after the riders rolled through one particular sprint last Thursday. He seems convinced that there is some relationship between the financial rewards and the efforts of the riders.
The lack of financial incentives figured in the stinging criticism of La Vuelta by Oleg Tinkov who reacted angrily to two of his riders being taken out of the race by official vehicles. Within days of each other, Tinkoff-Saxo teammates Peter Sagan and Sergio Paulinho had to abandon the race after trouble with service vehicles and motorbike cameramen. Oleg Tinkov said "they pay us no money for the race and even damage riders".
Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, has also had to abandon the race with an injury. Despite all the departures and controversy, or maybe because of it, La Vuelta looks like it could be the most unpredictable of the three major tours of 2015. The next few days should tell us plenty about those leading the general classification. Then next Wednesday there is an individual time trial that could be crucial in a way the team trial was not.